Two candidates for the Legislature have announced their plans to seek election in 2018.

Gardiner Mayor Thom Harnett said last week at an event in Gardiner that he plans to seek the District 83 House seat that’s held by Rep. Gay Grant, D-Gardiner. At that same event, Grant announced she would not seek another term.

On Tuesday, Rep. Matthew Pouliot, R-Augusta, announced he’s running for the seat now held by Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, who has served four consecutive two-year terms, the maximum number allowed.

These announcements come as only a few people have announced their intention to run for the Legislature, while to date 18 people have announced they are running for the open governor’s seat; Republican Gov. Paul LePage is also term-limited.

For Harnett, 62, the move comes as he enters his sixth year as mayor in Gardiner.

“This has nothing to do with the job of being mayor,” Harnett said. “I love it. It’s been wonderful, but I am ready to try to effect change on a broader basis but still benefit Gardiner while working for the region and the entire state.”

Harnett said the flip side of Gardiner’s economic development gains is the poverty abatement requests that elected officials consider. Generally, he said, the requests come from senior citizens who are on a fixed income, whose greatest fear is not being able to hang on to their home.

“The driving force behind that is the state’s failure to live up to its promise on revenue sharing,” he said.

When the program launched, the state promised to return 5 percent of sales tax to cities and towns to help defray the cost of providing services. State lawmakers have reduced that by 60 percent, and because of that, Harnett said, the opportunity for property tax relief has been lost in the last six years.

“In Maine, home ownership is not reserved to any (particular) socio-economic group. I don’t want to see people in multi-generational homes worry about whether they will pay they taxes, buy food or buy medicine,” he said.

Harnett, who is an attorney, retired earlier this year from the Maine attorney general’s office, where he was working in the Natural Resources Division. Before that, he was the assistant attorney general for civil rights education and enforcement. He entered public office after he served as the chairman of a committee asked to recommend whether a crematorium should be built in Oak Grove Cemetery, a contentious issue for neighbors of the cemetery. He was elected that year as a write-in candidate to the City Council, and he was elected mayor a year later. He was elected to his third term as mayor a year ago.

Harnett, who moved to Gardiner in 1992 with his wife and two children, graduated from Fordham University and New York University Law School.

House District 83 consists of Gardiner and Farmingdale.

Pouliot, 30, who serves on the Taxation and Elections committees in his third consecutive term in the House, said in a news release that he’s concerned with growth.

“During my time in the Legislature, we have advanced policies to improve the quality of life and make Maine more competitive so people can afford to live, work and raise their families here,” he said, “But there’s a lot of work yet to be done.”

While Maine had been ranked by Forbes magazine as the worst state in the country in which to do business because of high corporate tax rates and poor economic and job forecasts, he said, it has since reached the rank of 37th.

“While it is encouraging that we are moving in the right direction, we must continue working hard to bring prosperity to Maine,” Pouliot said.

Pouliot is a real estate agent with RE/MAX Riverside and owns two real estate management and investment companies.

Pouliot, an Augusta native, is a 2005 graduate of Cony High School and a 2009 graduate of the University of Maine at Augusta, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration.

He served on several local and civic boards, including terms as vice chairman of the Augusta Planning Board and chairman of the Augusta Downtown Alliance’s Economic Restructuring Committee.

He has partnered with the National Institute of Civil Discourse to promote civility in politics across Maine and the nation.

Senate District 15 consists of Augusta, China, Oakland, Sidney and Vassalboro.

In Maine, both senators and representatives serve two-year terms, and both are limited to serving four two-year terms. Elected officials who have reached that limit are eligible to serve again if elected after two years.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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