Incumbent Justin Chenette hopes to fend off a challenge from Stavros Mendros, a former state representative who moved this year to York County, and hold on to the Senate District 31 seat representing northern York County.

Chenette, 27, was first elected at age 21 to represent his hometown of Saco in the House of Representatives. After two terms in the House, he was elected two years ago to represent the Senate district that includes Saco, Hollis, Limington, Old Orchard Beach and part of Buxton.

Mendros, 50, moved from Lewiston to Hollis last spring so his daughter could attend Thornton Academy Middle School. A former state representative who has been active – and at times controversial – in Maine politics for years, Mendros decided to challenge Chenette because there was no Republican candidate on the ballot.

Chenette, who works as a marketing coordinator and owns a small business, said he is driven to again run for office by his desire to “clean up a system that is fundamentally broken.”

“I find it’s really important we have voices at the table who want to reform state government to be more transparent and ethical. Lobbyists have great influence coating pockets of political leaders through (political action committees),” he said. “If my voice is not at the table pushing back at the system, it’s a big detriment to Maine people. We need a government that is actually fighting for them.”

Chenette, the youngest senator in Maine, sees his experience advocating for people as one of his greatest strengths as a legislator and says he also brings a unique perspective to the table because of his age and experience in the House of Representatives and on the State Board of Education. He points to the health care reform bill passed into law in the last session and the expansion of the homestead exemption as examples of his accomplishments in Augusta. During his first term in the Senate, Chenette served on the Taxation Committee.

Chenette said he wants to return to the Senate to hold public utilities accountable, properly fund education and implement voter-approved referendums.

“There’s been an attack on our democratic institution,” he said in reference to efforts to avoid implementing referendums. “A small group of politicians should not be able to cherry-pick. My colleagues need to respect when voters go to the ballot box.”

Mendros, who runs a consulting and marketing businesses and a public car auction, got his start in politics at the University of Maine, where he served as student body president. He went on to represent Lewiston in the 119th and 120th Legislatures and ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2002. He was a Lewiston city councilor from 2003 to 2007, served one term on the Lewiston School Board and spent six years on the Lewiston Finance Committee.

His work as a consultant for a broad range of citizen initiatives has brought him criticism and triggered investigations. Mendros’ most recent signature-gathering job was to get U.S. Senate candidate Max Linn onto the ballot, but Linn was disqualified because his petitions included signatures of dead people, among other irregularities. That matter remains under investigation.

Mendros says his time in state and municipal government has given him valuable experience with budgets and he has never voted to raise taxes.

“There are areas where you need to spend more money, but there are areas where you can make tough choices to cut. I’m not afraid to do that,” he said.

Mendros is currently writing a book about addiction and said his extensive research gives him “an unparalleled understanding of the opioid epidemic.” He feels lawmakers need to address the epidemic in a way that does not further shame or stigmatize people dealing with addiction.

“Something needs to be done to make addicts feel like they’re part of the community and that they matter,” he said.

While he leans to the right, Mendros said the Republican Party has never controlled his vote.

“I’ve always voted for the people and have broken ranks many times if it was best for my district,” he said. “I know how to push buttons and get things done. I know how to draw attention to issues. I show I can be tough.”

Both Chenette and Mendros say they are concerned about traffic congestion in the Route 112 corridor and would like to ensure that state agencies and municipalities are working together to address the issue. They also agree that addressing erosion in Camp Ellis needs to remain a top priority.

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: grahamgillian

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