Two experienced campaigners are seeking the Democratic nomination to run for the state Senate District 14 seat in November.

Shenna Bellows, of Manchester, was a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2014. Terry Berry, of Gardiner, is in his second term on the Gardiner City Council.

Senate District 14 comprises Chelsea, Farmingdale, Gardiner, Hallowell, Manchester, Monmouth, Pittston, Randolph, Readfield, West Gardiner and Winthrop.

Sen. Earle McCormick, R-West Gardiner, announced earlier this year he is not running for another term.

Bellows, 41, said serving in the Maine Senate would be a tremendous honor.

“I have dedicated most of my career, from the Peace Corps to my present-day work with at-risk children at Learning Works, to helping others and giving back to the community,” Bellows said. “I have unique experience in building bipartisan coalitions to solve problems and address critical issues like civil rights and privacy.”

The top issue she sees affecting people in the Senate district is property tax.

“There’s a direct connection to the state’s failure to fund municipal revenue sharing and its share of education funding,” she said. Making up the difference falls on the shoulders of homeowners through their property tax bills.

“I talk to seniors who are still working part-time jobs in their late 70s because they are concerned about rising property tax,” she said. “I am passionate about getting the state’s budget in order to bring some relief to property owners.”

The experience of these Mainers, including an 82-year-old Pittston woman who had worked as a home healthcare aid until she was 80, transcend political differences.

“It’s something that affects all of us,” she said.

Terry Berry, 61, a Gardiner city councilor, said he has spent the last 36 years as a real estate agent bringing opposing parties together to reach a mutually acceptable agreement: the terms of a property sale.

“A buyer and seller have opposing goals,” he said. “I have spent my life knitting them together. At the end, no one is 100 percent happy, but they are happy with the outcome.”

Those are the skills that he would bring to the legislature if he’s elected, he said.

Knocking on doors and talking to people, he said many people have told him they find Paul LePage, the Republican governor, to be a poor representative of what the state’s about, and they don’t care for the governor’s uncompromising stance on issues he favors.

“We have got to learn, as Democrats and Republicans, men and women, to come to a consensus for what’s best for the state of Maine and its people,” he said.

That includes taking another look at renewable energy and its role in making the United States energy-independent. Renewable energy projects have struggled in the state. “Let’s see what pieces and parts we can make work instead of throwing them all out. What we have for technology today is going to be vastly different in the months and years to come.” Berry favors supporting technology that doesn’t require government subsidies in the short-term while other technology develops and matures.

Bellows, as interim director of Learning Works, a nonprofit agency that provides educational and mental health services to kids, said she’s had first-hand experience in the need for mental health resources. When the state was facing cuts to the mental health budget, she said, she worked in a coalition with executive directors of other agencies and Republicans in the legislature to place a moratorium on the cuts and to override Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of the bill.

Bellows said she has known from an early age that public schools are a pathway to opportunity. She said voters in the district want their children and grandchildren to be prepared for work and find meaningful work in Maine.

“There is a sense that some of the traditional jobs are not coming back,” she said. But opportunities exist where infrastructure can support them. In a number of communities, people with access to high-speed Internet connections can work in Maine, either for themselves or for companies located elsewhere. “How can we make that accessible and cost-efficient across Maine, and how can we connect Maine to the national economy?” she said. “And what is the appropriate public sector role in rural broadband development?”

She supports the expansion of MaineCare, the state’s low-income health insurance program, to get people connected to the care they need, particularly in the face of the state’s drug crisis. ‘The epidemic is touching all our families. I have heard stories in every town of people who are struggling with addiction and people who have been victims of property crimes.”

Voters, she said, support their local schools, but they are concerned by the lack of support for those schools by the state legislature and the impossible choices that are foisted on cities and towns.

In addition to her work at Learning Works, Bellows has founded Bellows & Company, which provides advocacy, communications and development services to clients. She’s also worked for the American Civil Liberties Union, both in Maine and Washington, D.C., for AmeriCorps and in the Peace Corps, and she has served as a research associate and recruiting coordinator for Economists Incorporated.

Berry, who said he’s a bit of a conservative when it comes to spending other people’s money, said he supports increasing the minimum wage over time, not all at once. Businesses need time to adjust to changes the wage increase would bring. He would work incrementally on increasing the wage level to monitor its effect. That would also allow consumers time to adjust to changes in prices.

“You can make up for (the lag in increasing the minimum wage) in a really condensed period of time,” he said. “We didn’t get into this fix overnight, so we’re not going to get out of it overnight.”

Berry said he supports women’s rights and their access to services at Planned Parenthood and freedom of choice. He supports gay rights and said the state has work to do on the transgender issue.

He supports an expansion of mental health services available in the state and an expansion of MaineCare.

“We have so few resources for this drug and opiate epidemic,” he said. “If we had an additional 70,000 Maine residents on health insurance policies that would be paid 100 percent by the federal government for the first few years and at 90 percent thereafter, we can improve the lives of so many people. It’s hard to deliver anything if the people who need it can’t afford it.”

Berry was born and grew up in the district, he said, and his entire life has been spent in the district he’s asking to serve.

“I have some historical understanding how the area has evolved and what problems have come and gone over the last 50 years. My career has been sitting at kitchen tables in southern Kennebec County helping people with the thing that’s there largest asset — their homes.”

Berry said he’s not decided yet whether he would continue as a city councilor if he’s elected to the state Senate.

The winner of this contest will go on to face the winner of the Senate District 14 Republican contest between Maureen Blanchard and Bryan Cutchen in November’s general election.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ


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