Recent resignations of a city councilor and school board member have produced a special election in Augusta. At-large Councilor Jeff Bilodeau and at-large Board of Education member Laura Hamilton departed for different reasons, Bilodeau because of his professional career with the Maine National Guard, Hamilton had simply had enough of politics. Winners in the replacement contests get to serve six months of unexpired terms, and need to run again in November if they wish to serve for another three years.

A lot of changes have occurred on the Augusta City Council, with veteran public servant Mark O’Brien, former state legislator Corey Wilson and newcomer Harold Elliott Jr. recently elected. The council chemistry has changed since these pro-growth, moderately conservative councilors have joined. There have been a couple very close votes on issues as progressive councilor Linda Conti’s bid for council leadership has been rebuffed. The next councilor could play a key role in the direction of the council.

Three candidates vie for the at-large council spot. They are in ballot order: former school board member Jennifer Day; perennial candidate and former councilor Stan Koski; and newcomer Bob Trask, another candidate from the besieged Grandview neighborhood.

Day possesses bonafides for this office after commendable experience on the Board of Education. She is a personable woman who combines family and a career in real estate.

Day has a couple of other advantages. There will be more women voters than men, she lives in Ward 1, while her male opponents both reside in Ward 3, where they are likely to split that vote, and not to be overlooked — she will be first name at the top of the ballot.

Koski, retired from Central Maine Power, is persistent, running unsuccessfully since losing several years ago in a contest against Roger Katz for mayor. He was best known as a strident fiscal conservative when he served on the council. An engineer, Koski served the city for many years on a voluntary basis, in charge of maintaining the city’s traffic lights, undoubtedly saving Augusta thousands of dollars.

Bob Trask, another conservative, is a retired UPS manager* who emerges as a strong contender because of the angst remaining over the never-ending controversy concerning ongoing blasts from the McGee Construction Co. pit in his neighborhood. The first candidate spawned by the Grandview controversy was departed Councilor Bilodeau, followed by Elliott in Ward 3, and now Trask, as the neighborhood continues to fight for a stronger mineral extractions blasting control ordinance to protect them.

Additional intrigue is provided this three-way race by the fact that usually united political players appear to be backing different horses in this one. For example, well-known businessman Roger Pomerleau; Lou Craig, spokesman for Grandview neighborhood; and Ward 3 Councilor Elliott back newcomer Trask, who got into the race late. Prominent former councilors Pat Paradis and Cecil Munson had already convinced Day to run before Trask appeared. Normally the aforementioned group would be backing the same candidate.

Too bad the turnout is likely to be small because this is one of the more interesting races for some time for Augusta council. Trask wins the ground game for most signs, Koski’s campaign-worn signs have the best strategic placement, while unfortunately, Day’s signs are unattractive. Qualifications and effort should always be the first consideration.

Here’s what I see: Day will win on the west side in Wards 1 and 2, Trask will take his home Ward 3, followed closely by Koski. Conservative Ward 4 could be a tossup. Will voters pick Day’s fresh credentials, conservative Trask’s strong effort with Grandview area support and insider help, or could Koski’s name recognition garner him enough votes in a very small turnout? Here’s a tip — the winner could be the candidate smart enough to target a list of most likely voters from previous small turnout elections.

Prediction: the new city councilor probably will be Jen Day.

Meanwhile the school board contest is a write-in situation. I hope you will note the master’s degree in education degree qualifications of Pia Holmes, a former teacher, principal and school board member in adjacent Manchester before moving to Augusta with her husband, well-known realtor Bruce Holmes. Pia Holmes — best qualified for the Board of Education, and terrific signs.

Don’t forget to vote, Tuesday, June 13, including a resounding yes for the school budget.

Fast forward: Another Augusta election this November, Charter Commission vote in 2018, and a prediction — Mayor Dave Rollins seeks a state Senate seat when Roger Katz leaves.

Don Roberts is a veteran broadcaster, writer and political consultant. He has served Augusta as a city councilor at-large, charter commission vice chairman and utilities district treasurer.

*Editor’s note: An earlier version of this column misstated the professional experience of candidate Bob Trask. He is a retired UPS manager.

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