Both familiar and new faces vying for state representative and senator will be on the ballot this year, as local candidates seek voter approval to head to the Statehouse in Augusta next fall.
This time around, there are two open seats, in House District 2 - Eliot and parts of Kittery and South Berwick; and in Senate District 35, which encompasses most of southern York County, open because Sen. Dawn Hill, D-York, has reached her term limit.
Partisan candidates had to file paperwork with the Maine Ethics Commission on March 15. Independent candidates have until June 1 to file. While most of the seats are uncontested, there will be one June primary race on the Democratic side in House District 2. Vying for the right to go on to the general election this fall will be two familiar Eliot residents, Michele Meyer and Kimberly Richards.
Senate District 35
Two people who have vied for this seat in the past are back before voters seeking another opportunity to serve. Senate District 35 comprises Kittery, Eliot, York, South Berwick, Ogunquit and part of Berwick.
Democrat Mark Lawrence, currently serving as District 2 House member, was elected senator from this district in the 1990s, and was elected Senate president in 1996 and 1998. He is a former York County district attorney and has a private practice in Kittery. He lives in South Berwick.
Lawrence, who announced his run in January, said he’s running for this seat in large part because he is concerned about the lack of attention in Augusta on this part of Maine. “It is critical that southern York County has strong, effective leadership in Augusta to represent our unique interests,” Lawrence said. “Too often leaders and bureaucrats in Augusta think that Maine stops somewhere around Biddeford and they think of us as almost part of New Hampshire.”
A founder of the Wells-based Laudholm Trust, he said the challenge facing the area is to sustain economic growth while also “conserving the quality of life here.”
Republican Mike Estes has served the town of York in many capacities over the years, notably on both the School Committee and the Board of Selectmen, on which he currently serves. He owns Estes Oil in York. He ran for the state Senate seat in 2010.
Estes said he is “getting to the age where if I want to do this, I should do it now.” He said he is very concerned that the state’s citizens’ referendum process has been hijacked to the point that “what is going on is government by petition. We need to take a hard look at that. Why does Maine have so many referendums and are we really not listening to the people?”
A gun owner, he also said “at the same time, I know you can not let mentally deranged people go into schools and shoot kids either.” He said like many issues in Maine, “people keep kicking the can down the road, and you can’t just keep doing that.”
He said he is finishing a term as president of the New England Fuel Institute, which required him to travel all over the country lobbying for the organization. “So I know how state governments work. I know my way around. I know how to govern,” he said.
If elected, he will remain on the Board of Selectmen until his term is up in May 2019.
Social media etc: Mark Lawrence for State Senate Facebook page; Estes indicated he will mount a presence in the coming months.
House District 1
There are two notable facts about the race in House District 1, which comprises nearly all of Kittery. There is no Republican candidate, but there is a Green Independent candidate, one of about a dozen Green candidates who are vying for seats in the Legislature statewide.
Seeking re-election to his fourth and final term in the House is incumbent Rep. Deane Rykerson, D-Kittery. He said he contemplated a run for Hill’s state Senate seat this time, “but I’m going to be 70 when this next term is done, and I’d like a January off.”
Asked why he is seeking another term, Rykerson was clear. “I would love to have a chance to serve under a different governor, no matter who it is” - a reference to the fact that Gov. Paul LePage is serving his last term in office. Rykerson has been highly and vocally critical of the governor over the years.
But he also said it takes a full term before legislators fully understand how the Legislature works, and by now he feels “I can get some work done.” A member of the Energy and Utilities Committee, he said he wants to look at the state’s renewable portfolio standard, and find methods to evaluate the efficiencies of renewables. He said he was persuaded to wait to file legislation until there’s a new governor.
“A lot of things are on hold,” he said, including the transfer of John Paul Jones Park from the state to Kittery, a transaction that has been sitting on the governor’s desk for some time.
Vying for votes in the district is Andrew Howard of Kittery, an Independent Green Party candidate. A local business person, he said he was inspired to run as he came to fully understand that “both major parties have been taken over by big money. The voice of the little guy is lost in the shuffle. I think the biggest voice for the little guy is the Green Independent Party,” he said.
He said he was conflicted about running because he and Rykerson agree about most issues, “but he’s also in the party that has an insurmountable amount of money. He belongs to a party I don’t agree with.” He said he considers himself “an open-minded, independent free thinker who is fed up with the two-party system.” He said issues of affordable housing, living wages - both significant issues in Kittery - and sustainable resources are important to him.
Social media etc.: Deane Rykerson for Kittery Facebook page.
House District 2
The contested primary race brings two well-known Eliot women before Democratic voters this June. Meyer and her husband, Jay, have been Eliot government watchdogs for years. They were at the center of efforts to draw attention to a lack of transparency in the town planning department and board. Richards is chair of the town’s conservation commission, and worked several years ago to bring attention to pollution issues from Schiller Station directly across the Piscataqua River in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Meyer, the former chair of the town Democratic Town Committee and board member at the elderly affordable housing complex Baran Place, said this is her first time running for elective office. She said as a registered nurse, “I realized that a career spent in patient care and advocacy provides the perfect foundation for a transition into a career of public service, which should be focused on people not special interests.”
She said her work as a government watchdog has “led me to believe that now more than ever, we need public servants who focus on transparency, accountability and ethics.” She said she did ponder the question of whether her activism with the town could help or hurt her, but said “I think there was an overall satisfaction with the outcome” of the resignations of former Planning Board chair Steve Beckert and planning assistant Kate Pelletier. “And those folks might look to my activism as a positive, because I will take the same kind of drive to Augusta with me.”
Richards ran two years ago against Lawrence in the primary, and said this time “people asked me to run again.” A Fabyan Drake Citizen of the Year in 2014, as a Coast Guard veteran she is also a member of American Legion Post 188 and served as adjutant in 2013.
“Serving the public is just what I do,” she said. In the wake of the 2016 national elections, “I was contemplating my place in everything. And I came to realize that when all else feels lost, I feel like I’m contributing and making a positive difference if I’m serving people.”
She said if she’s elected, “first and foremost I’ll be doing the work of the people. Having said that, I’m an environmentalist. I’ve worked on a clean air campaign, and environmental issues are important to me.”
Facing the primary winner in November will be Eliot Republican Dan Ammons. A former Navy pilot and diplomatic attaché, he will be retiring as a pilot for American Airlines this year. He grew up in Kittery and South Berwick, and moved to Eliot in 2013. This is his first time running for elective office.
“I’m a Republican. I think government should be smaller and we should be careful with how we spend taxpayer money. The money is not the government’s. It belongs to the people and the government should be good stewards of it,” he said. He said he’s also a constitutionalist and a “strong believer” in the Second Amendment.
However, he also said “I’m a moderate guy.” In his travels around the world, he said he’s worked with people of diverse backgrounds and appreciates the value that everyone brings to the table. One issue that stands out for him is the opiate crisis in Maine. “It makes me sick to see what’s going on here. This has to be put on the front burner. There has to be a strategy, particularly to stop the problem before it starts.”
Social media etc: Meyer, www.micheleformaine.com, Michele Meyer for Maine District 2 Facebook page; Richards, richards4statehouse Facebook page.
House District 3
House District 3 comprises all of York east of Interstate 95. It is represented by Democrat Lydia Blume, who is seeking her third term. She will be challenged in the fall by a newcomer to state politics, York resident and Republican candidate Allyson Cavaretta, director of sales and marketing and a member of the owning family at Meadowmere Resorts in Ogunquit.
Blume, a member of the Marine Resources Committee, also founded the Coastal Caucus her first term in office, a bipartisan group of legislators that represent coastal communities. She works to bring experts in the field of climate change and sea level rise to the caucus “so we can educate ourselves.”
“It’s been my priority to champion coastal issues,” said Blume, who authored a bill to create a Maine Coastal Hazards Commission to help communities prepare for future coastal risks resulting from climate change. The bill has passed the House and is headed for a Senate vote shortly. But if it fails, she’ll bring it back if re-elected, she said, “because I think we have to keep pushing for these policies.”
Blume is also on the Marijuana Legalization Implementation Committee, and is a strong advocate for a properly regulated industry that she believes will be a significant economic boost to the state.
“I do feel we only have eight years, and the longer we’re there, the more effective we can be. I’m working now on things that are not short-term, but that establish good long-term public policy,” she said.
Cavaretta serves as a director on the board of the Ogunquit Museum of American Art and has volunteered with the Ogunquit Chamber of Commerce and the Ogunquit Heritage Museum. She also received the Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence. She has lived in York since 2006.
She said she’s been approached to run for the District 3 seat before, “but the timing didn’t feel right or necessary. This time, I feel I may be able to take my skills and be of assistance at the state level. It feels like the right time.”
She has concerns about issues surrounding business in the state. She said she is interested in workforce development, exploring ways in a tight job market to support workers in areas like transportation and training “so we can support their talents so that they can stay in the state and use them.” She’s long been involved in seasonal workforce issues, and has been vocal about changes in federal worker visa programs.
Social media etc: Cavaretta: www.allysoncavaretta.com; Allyson Cavaretta for State House District 3 Facebook page; Blume: Lydia Blume Maine House 3 Facebook page; she also encourages people to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
House District 4
House District 4 comprises Ogunquit, York west of Interstate 95, and parts of Wells and Sanford. Democratic State Rep. Patricia Hymanson of York is seeking her third term. She is being challenged by Republican Bradley Moulton of York, who has served the Legislature as representative from the district in the past.
Hymanson, a retired physician, is House chair of the Health and Human Services Committee. She said she sees her job in three parts: Being representative of a district “I’ve lived in for 35 years,” for one; secondly, bringing issues from the district to Augusta; and third, being chair of HHS, which oversees about 30 percent of the state budget.
“Now that I’m in a leadership position, I feel like I have a strong voice in what happens in the state, and I want to keep having that voice,” she said.
One of the issues she’s been focusing on is the opiate crisis, which touches all of her towns and the entire state. She was recently named an opiate policy fellow through the National Conference of State Legislature. She said the Legislature is moving forward with a package of bills on this issue, including one of hers, which will create a governor’s substance abuse disorder cabinet.
But the work is far from over, she said, and she feels she is in a prime position to lead on this issue.
Moulton, a Cape Neddick lawyer, served two terms in the Legislature in 2004 and 2010. He has run against Hymanson for the past two terms, most recently in 2016 coming within 340 votes. Moulton has served on the board of a local land trust, on the Ogunquit Playhouse Foundation Board and on the York County Child Abuse and Prevention Council.
Moulton did not respond to several requests for comment for this story.
Social media etc.: www.pattyhymanson.org; Patty Hymanson Facebook page.
House District 6
This district comprises most of South Berwick and North Berwick. Seeking the seat is one-term incumbent Democrat Jennifer Parker and Republican R. Manley Gove, who both live in South Berwick.
Parker, whose professional background is in technology and marketing for tech startups, has also owned a number of businesses and started her sixth this past summer. She said her first term in Augusta was “an immense learning curve. Now I almost have my master’s in statehouse politics, but I haven’t graduated yet. How do you take that experience and not move it forward?”
Her “strongest personal passion” is the environment, and she sponsored an unsuccessful bill to ban plastic bags, legislation she said she’ll bring back. She also sponsored a death with dignity bill, which also went nowhere. “That is part of the Augusta I didn’t imagine - the degree of discord, animosity and divisiveness.” She said she’ll be more “strategic” when she sponsors legislation in the future.
As a member of the Health and Human Services Committee, she has focused her attention on intellectual disabilities and behavioral health.
Gove, a member of the South Berwick Planning Board and a local business owner, said it is “my dream to try to help the people in our community” by serving in Augusta.
He said if he is elected, he’d like to concentrate on recreational opportunities in Maine. He said he’s been involved in building the Eastern Trail in other parts of York County. The trail runs through North and South Berwick but hasn’t been built yet. “It’s a tremendous thing and something I’d be excited to promote if I am elected.” He said he’d also like to work to ensure boat owners who perhaps can’t afford a camp on a lake have an opportunity to put their boats in at lakes across Maine.
Beyond that, he said, “I’m kind of a Libertarian at heart. If you’re minding your own business, and you’re not hurting your neighbor of the town, you shouldn’t be regulated so heavily.”
Social media etc: Jennifer Parker Maine State Representative Facebook page.