WATERVILLE — The city’s Democratic committee has reached agreement over which candidates to put forth in November’s municipal elections.

The group held its second caucus of the season Monday night at City Hall in Waterville to decide on a candidate for the Ward 2 city council seat currently held by Republican Phil Bofia. Local Democrats failed to nominate a candidate for the seat at their first caucus in May.

What they didn’t know at the time, however, was that Ward 6 City Councilor Winifred Tate would resign from her  position Tuesday afternoon, less than 24 hours after Monday’s gathering and the deadline for all parties to finalize a nominee for the race. Her seat will be filled by either an unaffiliated candidate who garners enough voter support on a petition or by a council appointee, if no one qualifies.

Newcomer Flavia Debrito Oliveira, a full-time mom, local activist and recent graduate of Thomas College, received

Flavia Debrito Oliveira Contributed photo

unanimous support for the Ward 2 seat from about 15 Democrats who participated in Monday’s caucus, according to attendee Rien Finch. She will face off against Bofia, whom the city council voted into the position in January after former Ward 2 councilor Nathaniel White resigned and moved to Fairfield last December. The Waterville GOP formally nominated the CGI Group business analyst for reelection at its caucus on July 23.

Jackie Dupont, chair of the Waterville Democratic Committee, said she was on maternity leave during the first caucus of her party and did not know off-hand why the Ward 2 Democrat candidate was not agreed upon at that time. Finch noted that no one had expressed interest in the role in May. Then, Rep. Colleen Madigan, D-Waterville, approached Debrito Oliveira over the summer and encouraged her to run.


“I always had an interest in politics,” Debrito Oliveira said. “When I came to Maine (four years ago), my interest kind of built up through Educare, because I’m a parent ambassador there. … We actually went to Washington, and that gave me a lot of resources. I also graduated from the University of Maine Orono (Maine NEW Leadership) program and that got me ready for if I wanted to go into office and taught me how to run a campaign, so when the opportunity came, I was like, sure, why not.”

At Monday’s caucus, Democrats also voiced unanimous support for incumbents on the Waterville school board and Kennebec Water District Board of Trustees, more races that voters will decide on November’s municipal ballot. The party chose clinical social worker-therapist Greg Bazakas to continue serving Ward 2 on the school board as well as Jeff Earickson and J. Michael Talbot to extend their terms representing Waterville in the five-town water district that also includes Fairfield, Winslow, Benton and Vassalboro. Earickson, a senior systems administrator for Colby College’s IT department, is currently the president of the Kennebec Water District’s board. Talbot, an attorney, is treasurer.

Waterville voters will cast their ballots for the municipal candidates of their choice at the Harold Alfond Athletic Center at Thomas College in Waterville in November. Morning Sentinel file photo by David Leaming

Bazakas was appointed to the school board in January to replace Susan Reisert, who resigned because she was moving to Belgrade, a part of Regional School Unit 18. Shaun Caron will run against Bazakas as the GOP-endorsed Ward 2 candidate. Caron was a major player in contesting the votes of Colby College students in last year’s election. The state’s Supreme Judicial Court ultimately dismissed the claim he co-filed with Planning Board member and Chair of the Waterville GOP Cathy Weeks. The Waterville Voter Registration Appeals Board later ruled that Colby students have a right to vote in Waterville elections.

At its earlier caucus in May, local Democrats put forth incumbents Margaret Smith and Jay Coelho as candidates for the respective Ward 3 and Ward 5 seats on the council that are also due for a vote this year. A special election in November placed Smith, a stay-at-home-mom and former teacher, and Coelho, who owns a tech repair business, in the roles for one year. City Councilors typically serve three-year terms. Republicans chose Rick Foss, who has never run for office before, to run against Coelho in November. The GOP has not announced a candidate for Ward 3 on the council.

Last year’s special election came less than six months after Coelho led a failed effort to recall then-Ward 5 Councilor John O’Donnell, who was voted onto the board after Nick Champagne stepped down to become the city engineer in April 2018. At the time, Coelho sought the seat as a Libertarian.

Also at its May caucus, the Waterville Democratic Committee nominated incumbent Board of Education members Joan Phillips-Sandy, an attorney from Ward 3, and Julian Payne, a manufacturing supervisor from Ward 5, for reelection. Payne was another candidate who unsuccessfully vied for the Ward 5 city council seat vacated by Champagne. Republicans have not identified candidates for either open position on the school board.

All candidates nominated through a caucus — except the water district trustees — must “fortify these nominations” by getting 25 voters to sign a petition by Sept. 6, according to deputy city clerk Sarah Cross. Individuals who did not receive a party nomination can run as unaffiliated candidates if they obtain the paperwork from city hall and receive the required number of signatures by the deadline.

Cross added that there is also a position on the Charter Commission that will appear on the November ballot, though neither the Democrats nor Republicans have nominated a candidate.

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