State of Maine: MDI will have open House seat

In the recent heat waves even the tourists were listless, sticking close to shore and shade. Not a creature was stirring unless it was to creep to the nearest ice cream shop.

Yet a little zephyr of local political news blew through, lifting the leaves for a moment. It might be 15 months away, but a few legislative candidates are beginning to show their faces. For the most part they have done little more than announce their intentions, laying out their basic philosophies in the broadest of terms. The specifics will come later.

Republican Rep. Larry Lockman is term-limited next year. He seems to have been anticipating a Senate race since last winter when he left his home in Amherst and shifted west to Bradley, a move that established residency in the Senate district he now seeks to represent.

Senate District 8 is a meandering district, much longer than it is wide. It starts in Castine, stretches north to Bradley, where it takes a hard right turn (suiting Lockman to a T), and then heads north again to Lincoln.

Lockman will be up against incumbent Republican Kimberley Rosen in the primary. She will be trying for her fourth and final term there, having previously served four terms in the House. In her years of service she has been diligent about constituent work, which is always helpful in a re-election campaign.

She is not above startling a caller with a beef about something or other by blurting out “Stay right there!” and hopping in her car to go take a look. She is a keen listener, giving voters her full attention when they engage her on the issues. She and her husband, Richard Rosen, a former state senator himself, are well known in the area through their former retail business and through their long public service, during which they have both maintained a reputation for hard work and decency.

Lockman has been far more controversial, a pillar of the far right on everything from abortion to unions to gay rights. The bills he submits are the sort meant to agitate the left, but garner little support on either side of the aisle. The three bills he submitted in the first year of the current session have all been dispatched to the dead file.

Results in the 128th Legislature varied only by quantity. Lockman submitted three House Orders and nine bills. Dead, every one. In the 127th, five bills, all dead. The 126th? Seven bills. Dead. This is an extraordinary record of consistency for a legislator. In three and a half terms in Augusta, every single bill he submitted was killed. The only papers he got through the House were legislative sentiments congratulating constituents on birthdays, anniversaries or academic success.

On Mount Desert Island, Representative-for-life (if he could be) Brian Hubbell will be termed out next year. From a solid 57 percent first win in 2012, his winning margin increased over his four terms to 65 percent, then 71 percent, then 75 percent. One Democratic candidate, Lynne Williams, an attorney from Bar Harbor, has taken out papers.

Williams ran for probate judge last fall and came close enough to unseating Republican incumbent William Blaisdell IV to earn a recount. That narrowed Blaisdell’s 57-vote margin of victory to just 25 votes, but win he did. It is early days, and the race will likely attract more candidates from both parties.

There may be a challenge to Rep. Genevieve McDonald of Stonington. Serving in her first term, lobsterman McDonald will reportedly be challenged in a primary by Julie Eaton of Deer Isle. She’s a lobsterman, too, and has been active in the formation of a lobstermen’s union. She was a driving force behind the recent fishermen’s rally in Stonington to protest the “take reduction” rules to protect right whales.

The trouble is whales rarely, if ever, appear in the waters fished by most Maine lobstermen. It is safe to assume that McDonald and Eaton agree on the futility of the right whale rules. What is not clear is how Eaton would differentiate herself in her attempt to unseat McDonald.

At the state level, Sara Gideon, the current House speaker, has put together an aggressive U.S. Senate campaign against incumbent Susan Collins. It is mostly “Jaws” music playing behind every reference to the dastardly deeds of our once-moderate senator. The money! The votes! The hypocrisy! The money!

Collins has not yet deigned to speak directly about her opponent. In a race rated “competitive,” she is going about campaign preparation in the same methodical way she has approached her more than two decades of service.

This fall, local candidates will be getting serious about the 2020 races. That will be time enough for ardent political groupies to start to pay attention. Everyone else? Give it until next spring.

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Jill Goldthwait

Jill Goldthwait

Retired nurse and former independent Maine State Senator.

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