LEWISTON — A three-way race has emerged to represent Lewiston on the Androscoggin County Commission, with incumbent Elaine Makas facing challengers Walter Hill and City Councilor Renee Bernier.
All three will be on the June 8 Democratic primary ballot.
Joining them will be a contest for sheriff, with former Chief Deputy Eric Samson competing with his boss, Sheriff Guy Desjardins.
Both jobs carry four-year terms.
The major party ballots were finalized Monday by the Maine Secretary of State’s office, formally kicking off the election season.
The campaign has already begun for Elaine Makas, who has served as a county commissioner for only 15 months.
“I feel like I am just making headway on the County Commission,” she said Tuesday.
In December 2008, Gov. John Baldacci appointed Makas to serve the remainder of Helen Poulin’s four-year term. Poulin had moved from Lewiston while representing the city on the three-member commission.
With more time, Makas hopes to refocus the work of the commission.
The group has spent too much time and money on work that has delayed the signing of an agreement with the Sheriff’s Department labor union, she said. It has also continued to fight a battle with former county employees who believed they earned a lifetime health benefit for their spouses.
The union negotiation has gone to arbitration and the insurance issue is now before the courts.
It’s only March and the annual budget for legal expenses is gone. Any savings created at the end of the fights would be lost in paying lawyers, Makas said.
“The economy is too shaky to throw money away,” she said.
Makas, who spent six years in the Maine Legislature, said she would continue to battle for what she believes in, though she is often the group’s dissenting vote against independent Jonathan LaBonte and Republican Chairman Randall Greenwood.
“I fight, but I fight nicely,” Makas said.
Challenger Walter Hill, a former Democratic Party chairman of Lewiston, led the initiative to remove Poulin from office. Since the change, he has been frustrated by the commission’s inability to sign a union agreement with the Sheriff’s Department union.
I think there are a lot of good people who work for the county,” he said. “I don’t think their voices are being heard by the people on the commission.”
Elected last November to a seat on the Lewiston School Committee, Hill said he believes he can be a consensus builder, hopefully finding more agreement among the differing opinions.
“I think we need some new energy,” he said. “Hopefully, I’d be more effective.”
The Sun Journal was unsuccessful in its attempts Tuesday to reach candidate Renee Bernier.
The city councilor and former member of the county Budget Committee ran for the seat in 2006, losing to Poulin.
If elected, she would have to give up her City Council seat, according to Maine law, which bans people from holding an elected municipal position while serving as a county commissioner.
Shortly after his election in 2008, Commissioner Greenwood resigned his post as a Wales selectman. He had served about six months of a three-year term.
Bernier was elected to the Lewiston City Council last November.