AUGUSTA (AP) – Majority Democrats will be looking to solidify their hold on the Legislature in the November general elections while Republicans again hope to rebound from their minority status. But first the two parties must sort out their rosters of candidates.

Maine’s June 10 voting will provide a significant advance in the process of filling the new Legislature that will convene in December. Two dozen primary elections to award party nominations will be held in various parts of the state.

There are six Senate contests, all involving Democrats, and 18 House face-offs – 10 pitting Democrats against one another and eight matching up Republican nomination rivals.

Only one incumbent legislator faces intraparty opposition in next month’s voting: Democratic Rep. Edward Finch of Fairfield is being challenged by a former House Democrat, Paul Tessier of Fairfield.

Many candidates and analysts view the battle for the Legislature as 186 separate local struggles that are determined primarily by personality and familiarity. Political parties also seek to superimpose overarching themes.

“I think that people have to choose the person that best represents what they feel and want to see,” says Senate President Beth Edmonds, D-Freeport.

Parties can do what they can to shape a candidate’s presentation, but “especially in these local races,” the likely choice is “someone you feel will listen to your concerns and help you find a good solution,” Edmonds says.

Sometimes, issues dominate.

“I think the legislative races will be focused on issues related to family budgets,” says Assistant Senate Minority Leader Richard Rosen, R-Bucksport. “The tax burden, local economic concerns, the pocketbook issues.”

Top-of-the-ticket campaigns may have broader agendas, but candidates for the state House and Senate would be wise to concentrate on pressing economic problems, says Rosen – “Mainers getting through next winter’s heating season.”

Democrats increased their majority in the House by one on Election Day last November as they won three out of five contests to fill vacancies resulting from resignations and deaths. The results brought the Democratic numerical roster to 90 in the 151-seat House, leaving Republicans with 59. There are two House independents. In the Senate, Democrats hold an 18-17 edge over Republicans.

To date, both major parties have fielded candidates for all 35 Senate districts. On the House side, Democrats have left only one district without a candidate while the Republican line is blank for 11 House seats.

A third recognized party, the Maine Greens, has three candidates in state Senate races and 10 in races for the House, according to filings with the Secretary of State.

Post-primary withdrawals, however, are still possible.

A candidate nominated by a party at the primary election may withdraw by July 14 in order to be replaced. The replacement deadline for the party is July 28.

Democrats have been on a winning streak in general elections for the House since 1974. Republicans have held the Senate outright for only one two-year period since the 1982 elections, although in 2000, statewide voting left the Senate split 17-17, with one independent.

Filling out the initial party rosters, 11 Democrats from the House of Representatives were listed as candidates for the Senate while two Senate Democrats – longtime House Speaker John Martin of Eagle Lake and Margaret Rotundo, the Appropriations Committee co-chairwoman from Lewiston – are running for the House. One Republican House member – Christopher Rector of Thomaston – is looking to move to the Senate.

Several Senate Democratic primaries offer intriguing matchups.

In Portland, Rep. Anne Rand’s bid to return to the Senate puts her up against Justin Alfond and Clifford Ginn.

A three-way scrum in Lewiston features two House members – Margaret Craven and Elaine Makas – and conservative activist Paul Madore.

South of Portland, Rep. Lawrence Bliss of South Portland is running against a former legislator, Edward Kelleher of Scarborough.

Former Republican House members looking to return to the chamber include Oscar Stone of Berwick, who faces Beth O’Connor of Berwick in a GOP primary, and Kenneth Lindell of Frankfort, who is up against Maxwell Coolidge of Orland and Warren Dana Southworth of Searsport in a three-way Republican nomination contest.

AP-ES-05-27-08 1345EDT


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