In 2014, led by the re-election of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and Gov. Paul LePage, Republicans gained control of the Maine Senate 20-15. This year, Maine Democrats, with relatively safe control of the House of Representatives (78-69), will center their efforts on regaining the Senate.

In this presidential year, the success or failure of the most unconventional Republican candidate in recent history, Donald Trump, will decide the fate of many of the party’s candidates.

According to the left-leaning Daily Kos, the chances of the Democrats regaining Maine Senate control are good. As always, there are “safe,” “leaning” and “toss-up” seats. The site predicts that Senate Majority Leader Michael Thibodeau, R-Winterport, who won narrowly in 2014, could lose this time to Johnathan Fulford, the same opponent who almost beat him last time. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, whose personal popularity virtually assures him a safe seat, doesn’t think so, citing Thibodeau’s now-statewide name recognition and demonstrated leadership ability.

However, it would not take much, according to some political junkies, for the Dems to capture seats they are favored to win along with a couple of toss-up victories in order to take back the Senate 18-17, where it was prior to the 2014 election.

The thin balance held by Republicans in the Senate could be affected by the outcome of a local battle for the seat of Earl McCormick, R-West Gardiner, who is not seeking another term. A hotly contested Democratic primary between former U.S. Senate candidate Shenna Bellows and Gardiner Councilor Terry Berry is one of the Senate races being closely watched.

In a Senate district that is basically rural, but includes very liberal Hallowell, a Bellows victory in the Democrat primary would produce a formidable opponent against the Republican nominee, either Gardiner Councilor Maureen Blanchard or a retired Navy admiral, Bryan Cutchen.

Bellows is proud of her record as a secular progressive and former executive director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union. A darling of Maine’s labor unions, Bellows unsuccessfully tried to knock off Collins, a champion of small business. Berry, a well-known local Realtor, would be the logical choice in this somewhat conservative district, except this is a Democrat primary with a lot at stake statewide. If Bellows wins she will be the favorite, because of money and organization, to defeat the Republican opponent in November. Cutchen, a newcomer and underdog, might be the best chance for Republicans to hold the seat.

To the voters in this district, I would urge attention to the issues in deciding which candidate stands for the same things that you do.

Another interesting local primary contest is the Democratic Party nomination for Kennebec County commissioner. Two well-known Dems, Patsy Crockett and Pat Paradis, are opposing each other for the ($10,000 a year) part-time job.

In Kennebec County, winning the Democrat primary for county commission is tantamount to election.

Crockett is a gubernatorial appointee serving in the seat vacated by the passing of Beverly Daggett. Now she seeks affirmation by election. Paradis hopes to deny her.

Both candidates have served in various elected positions, including the state Legislature. Paradis is being term-limited out after three terms as Augusta’s Ward 3 councilor. While Crockett has had extensive experience with county issues, Paradis’ activities have been confined to north Augusta, where he has served his constituents well.

Paradis has revived the campaign message and old signs — proclaiming, “Pat Paradis listens!” — that I created for him several years ago when he was opposed for re-election to the council. Glad he liked that campaign so much.

Crockett, relying on extensive door-to-door campaigning, has the support of Daggett’s surviving spouse and family, as well as party activists. A very small primary turnout and a third candidate, Carl Pease, a former Windsor town manager, complicates a prediction on this one. “Native politics” hands Paradis the edge in Augusta’s Ward 3, but Crockett’s work ethic, organizational abilities and connections throughout Kennebec County towns in the district should bring her victory.

One thing is certain, since I know all these players quite well, and had the pleasure of working with Daggett on several Augusta mayoral and council campaigns, the unequivocal choice to succeed her would have been her close friend Patsy Crockett. Also, Paradis has developed a longtime trust and loyalty deficit among most leading local Democrats.

Commissioner Crockett deserves to keep her new job.

Don Roberts, a former city councilor and former vice chairman of the Charter Commission in Augusta, is a trustee of the Greater Augusta Utility District.


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