BAR HARBOR — Hancock County voters will head to the polls Tuesday, June 14, to elect a state senator to finish Louie Luchini’s term.
Luchini resigned Jan. 18 and his term ends this year. The special election will be held on the same date as the state primaries. Unlike the primaries, voters do not have to be registered party members to participate. Any District 7 voter may vote in the special election. That includes voters in Amherst, Aurora, Bar Harbor, Blue Hill, Brooklin, Brooksville, Cranberry Isles, Deer Isle, Eastbrook, Ellsworth, Franklin, Frenchboro, Hancock, Lamoine, Mariaville, Mount Desert, Osborn, Otis, Sedgwick, Sorrento, Southwest Harbor, Stonington, Surry, Swan’s Island, Tremont, Trenton and Waltham.
The special election candidates are Democrat Nicole Grohoski of Ellsworth, Republican Brian Langley of Ellsworth and Green Independent Benjamin Meiklejohn of Mount Desert. Grohoski and Langley also are running for the District 7 seat in November.
The Islander asked the candidates about their backgrounds and why they are running in the special election.
As a cartographer/GIS specialist, Grohoski makes maps for a living. She grew up in Ellsworth and returned home after working in Vermont for eight years after college. She has lived in Hancock County for 30 years altogether. She has served two terms representing Ellsworth and Trenton in the Maine House.
“It has been a true honor to bring the ideas and stories of so many constituents to Augusta through my hard work and dedication as a state representative these past four years,” Grohoski said. “I am proud of the advancements the Legislature has made for Maine people through our policies and efforts to work together, regardless of where we are from or our own personal beliefs. Mainers continue to need creative, collaborative, and hard-working leaders advocating for positive change that will affect us here at home. I have been and will continue to be a voice for our region in Augusta, listening to constituents’ concerns and taking action. I’m running for State Senate to build on what I’ve accomplished so far to improve life for people here at home and across our great state.”
On what can be accomplished in the months remaining in the current term, Grohoski said she would strive to answer constituents’ questions about government and connect them with information and services as needed. “Additionally, I plan to research policies based on conversations I am having with voters around Hancock County so that I can hit the ground running at the start of the next legislative session.”
Langley noted that “citizens need access to their state government year-round. Helping them navigate the system as their needs arise is important. Having served eight years as the senator from Hancock County, I often get calls from people who don’t know that I termed out. Just this morning, I got a call regarding discontinued road legislation. It is the job of the senator to connect citizens to the agencies that can best help them.”
Langley previously served four terms in the Maine Senate and one term in the Maine House of Representatives. He served on the Taxation Committee, Marine Resources Committee, Labor Committee and the Education Committee. He has lived in Maine for over 40 years, first arriving in 1978 for a job in Bar Harbor. He is now the chef/owner of the Union River Lobster Pot in Ellsworth and executive director of Bridge Academy Maine. Bridge Academy is a mentorship program in which high school students can get access to low or no-cost college courses.
“My main reasons for running are to continue to help students be prepared for high-wage/high-demand jobs here in Maine, help facilitate the building of a new tech center in Hancock County and help those who most need to access services in our state government,” Langley said. “Workforce is critical to our economy. Small businesses find themselves suffering from the effects of the pandemic and need a voice in Augusta to relay that message. I learned a lot during the pandemic about keeping a business open in tough times. Maine is facing some tough times as inflation takes a toll on average Mainers. Most of the solutions will require knowledge of business and the economy. I have years of experience as a small business owner.”
The Islander was unable to reach Benjamin Meiklejohn, the Green Independent candidate, for comment before press time. However, Meiklejohn outlined his reasons for seeking the Senate District 7 seat in a press release issued Feb. 14. He said that for the special election, candidates did not have to collect 100 signatures from enrolled party members to appear on the ballot, which can be a difficult threshold for Green Independents to meet.
“This is a rare opportunity to give our constituents a moment to breathe, to get a reprieve from the tense and antagonistic behaviors of the two major party institutions,” said Meiklejohn of his candidacy. He will not be seeking a full term in November.
Meiklejohn, who previously served on the Portland School Committee for six years, also ran for state representative in 2020, seeking to represent Bar Harbor, Lamoine and Mount Desert.
Meiklejohn said he hopes to reach the “disenfranchised and alienated” voters in order to “give them a voice.” He said due to the short length of the term remaining, the duties will be providing constituent service.
“I’m the best person for this position because I’m not beholden to a left or right ideology and I know how to listen,” he said.
Also on June 14, Langley and Grohoski will appear uncontested on their parties’ primary ballots. The state has established new voting districts and those districts will be used for the primaries and November election. District 7 now includes Bar Harbor, Blue Hill, Brooklin, Brooksville, Castine, Cranberry Isles, Deer Isle, Ellsworth, Frenchboro, Lamoine, Mount Desert, Orland, Penobscot, Sedgwick, Southwest Harbor, Stonington, Surry, Swan’s Island, Tremont, Trenton, Verona Island and, in Knox County, Isle au Haut.
That means that registered party members in some Hancock County municipalities could vote twice for the same candidate – once in the special election and once in the primary race.