Two-term incumbent state Sen. Shenna Bellows, D-Manchester, is facing a challenge in November from Mark Walker, the Republican mayor of Hallowell, for the District 14 seat.

The district includes Chelsea, Farmingdale, Gardiner, Hallowell, Manchester, Monmouth, Pittston, Randolph, Readfield, West Gardiner and Winthrop.

Bellows, the 45-year-old executive director of The Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine in Augusta, has spent the past four years in the Maine Senate.

She said she was running again to “make a difference,” and continue to be a voice for young people and businesses in her district.

“Whenever kids come to the State House, I tell them no matter who it is and where you come from, you can do whatever you want in this life,” Bellows said. 

Walker, a 66-year-old lawyer, said he has worked in a legislative setting in a professional role and would bring skills that are valuable in that arena.

“I think my approach to government is very much a listening one,” he said. “I don’t pretend to know all the answers.”

Bellows said all options need be considered in the upcoming budget year, which could be complicated by a reduction in tax revenue.

Everything has to be on the table, and it has to be bipartisan, fiscally conservative and fair,” she said. “I think it’s really important that we prioritize our core services, like schools, roads and public safety.”

Walker said he would look to decrease spending, first aiming to reduce the increase in the state’s budget over the past two years. He said he would then look to make cuts in areas where the state spends the most money.

We had a billion-dollar increase in the budget over the last 24 months,” Walker said. “That hasn’t been on the books that long. Let’s see if some of that can be spared.”

Bellows said the struggling economy, climate change and racial injustice are the most-pressing matters effecting the next generation of Mainers. She said investing in high-speed internet could spur economic growth.

In terms of civil rights, said her position as executive director of The Holocaust and Human Rights Center has given her opportunities to advocate on behalf of many people.

“I’m proud of our work,” Bellows said. “I think we need to continue to look at how our laws and policies impact equity in our state.”

Walker said Maine’s job market is one of the biggest issues for younger residents, who may not be able to find well-paying jobs here.

Support for Maine’s entire education system, including vocational colleges, he said, is essential to helping younger residents find jobs in the state.

“The community college system is a hidden gem,” Walker said. 

Bellows cited her willingness to work across party lines as a reason for her to be reelected. She also pointed to bills she has sponsored to expand school meals and make it easier for municipalities to apply for grants to get broadband internet.

It was important to engage my Republican and independent colleagues,” Bellows said. “We really need to work together, and that’s something I have really prioritized during my work in the Senate.”

Walker said his status as a Republican mayor in largely liberal Hallowell shows he has a balanced approach to government.

“The only way I could have stayed mayor in a progressive city is to listen to people,” he said. “I have the skills not just to be a checkmark for the Ds or a checkmark for the Rs.

“A few Republicans are very adamant and strong-willed Republicans. I think I’m fairly moderate and can appeal to all.”

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