LEWISTON — As this year’s campaigns shape up, it’s already clear that big changes are coming for the city’s legislative delegation.
Perhaps the most surprising is that former lawmaker Margaret Craven, a Democrat, has filed to run for a House seat that most had expected to remain in the hands of incumbent Roger Fuller.
Fuller said Monday that he opted not to seek re-election to his District 59 seat for medical reasons that he thinks would make it difficult for him to represent his constituents, district and party the way they deserve.
Craven, though, is “a wonderful candidate” whose track record shows she can do the job, Fuller said. He said he’ll do what he can to help her win the Nov. 6 general election against Republican John Reeder, a retired chiropractor.
Craven said she is “sad that Roger isn’t about to serve another term,” but she’s ready to jump back into the fray after taking time away from politics to care for her ailing husband, James, who died in November.
Another Lewiston incumbent who is not seeking re-election is Democrat Rep. Jared Golden, the assistant majority leader in the House. He opted to seek Democratic backing for a congressional run rather than return for another term in Augusta.
Hoping to claim Golden’s District 60 seat is Democrat Kristen Cloutier, president of the Lewiston City Council. So far, she is unopposed.
In two other House district races, Democratic incumbents are running for re-election.
Rep. James Handy has filed to seek another term representing District 58 while Rep. Heidi Brooks said Monday she is going to run for a second term in District 61.
Serving in the House, Brooks said, “is really important work” and she enjoys the challenge of dealing with “the depth and breadth” of the issues that arise in Augusta.
Republican Jason Lavoie, 33, is challenging Brooks. Having overcome a disability himself, he said, he hopes “to make a difference” in the lives of others.
Reeder, 73, said he hopes to provide a moderating influence in a political landscape that is too often divisive and sour.
“I think I would sweeten the flavor just a little bit,” Reeder said Monday.
Calling himself “an extremely liberal Republican,” Reeder said it’s important to have a representative who doesn’t just vote the party line.
Craven, 73, who served first in the House and then in the Senate from 2002 to 2014, said she didn’t anticipate running for office again this year, but when she learned Fuller intended to step down, she decided to get into the race.
Since her husband’s death after a 50-year marriage, she said, it hasn’t been easy to know what to do. But she loves politics.
Craven said she’s been “really dismayed” by the lack of ethics and degraded dialogue by political leaders lately, something she aims to improve.
“I would like to stand up as a woman who is honest and will tell the truth,” she said, vowing “to keep fighting for my little corner” in the hope that others will do the same where they are.
Reeder said that as someone who ran his own business for years, he knows the difficulties involved that government could do more to help.
Just “a little more common sense” in Augusta, he said, would make a difference.
Reeder said that while he’s not one to toe the line, he would fight for his district. “I don’t roll over and play dead,” he said.
Brooks said that one of the things she’s pressing for is to convince the state to move forward quickly on the Medicaid expansion approved by voters in November. She said the state ought to take the money this year and provide more coverage soon.
But she is also working on something even more expansive.
Brooks said she hopes Maine “will go to a more inclusive, everybody in and nobody out, model” that would ensure that every Mainer has health care. She’s one of the House leaders in the push for universal coverage in the state.
Lavoie said his background is atypical for somebody running for the Legislature.
He said he has “been down in the gutters” and needed assistance to get his feet on the ground. But since getting a job at Kmart last year — and now working as an educational technician at an Auburn school — Lavoie said he can show that with focus and hard work, it is possible to get ahead.
Lavoie has always had an interest in politics, but has only run once before, in a Portland district when he was studying political science at the University of Maine.
He wound up running against the professor teaching his class in Maine government.
Though he got clobbered at the polls in the heavily Democratic district, he said, it wasn’t all bad.
“I got an A in the class,” Lavoie said.
The general election is Nov. 6. If there are multiple candidates within a party, voters will decide who will get the nod in a June 12 primary.
Legislators, who work part time, have two-year terms and cannot serve in the same office more than four consecutive terms.
Rep. Roger Fuller, D-Lewiston (Submitted photo)
Jason Lavoie, Republican candidate for House District 61. (Sumbitted photo)
Rep. Heidi Brooks, Democrat seeking second term in House District 61. (Submitted photo)
John Reeder, Republican candidate for House District 59. (Sun Journal file photo)
Margaret Craven, Democratic candidate for House District 59. (Sun Journal file photo)