Rep. Jeff Timberlake, R-Turner, answers a question about the state budget during a January 2016 news conference at the State House in Augusta. Rep. Ellie Espling, R-New Gloucester, right, also spoke at the news conference.

AUGUSTA — Two Republicans declared their intention Wednesday of seeking state Senate seats next year of incumbents departing to pursue higher office.

Rep. Ellie Espling, R-New Gloucester, hopes to succeed Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, a two-term lawmaker who is running against U.S. Sen. Angus King, an independent.

Another incumbent, Rep. Bruce Bickford, R-Auburn, is already in the running for the seat. There are no Democratic candidates yet in either district.

Rep. Jeff Timberlake, R-Turner, is angling for the 22nd District seat that Sen. Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon, is leaving. Mason, the Senate’s majority leader, can’t run for re-election because of term limits — so he is running for governor.

“For as long as I’ve known him, Rep. Timberlake has been a strong voice for his constituents in Augusta,” Mason said. “He is a hard worker who has proven to be unwavering in his core principles.”

Both Espling and Timberlake have put in four terms in the House, so neither is eligible to run again for the seats they hold. They are allowed by law, though, to run for a Senate seat.

Gov. Paul LePage said Espling “has shown outstanding leadership in the House for the past eight years, and I know she will represent her district very well in the Senate. Not only would she make an exceptional senator, she would also excel in a leadership role in the Senate.”

Both candidates announced their political ambitions in news releases Wednesday that included comments from GOP colleagues endorsing them.

“I have always sought to be part of the solution when facing problems as a state and believe that the best ideas for making Maine a better place come from those we represent,” Espling said.

Brakey said that Espling, the assistant Republican leader in the House, “is a proven conservative leader who fights for her constituents while upholding limited government principles.”

Auburn Mayor Jonathan LaBonte said that “as a former member of her town’s Budget Committee, Ellie Espling understands what we face at the local level to balance budgets and meet service needs for residents.”

“She’s taken that experience and built it into an impressive legislative resume, including becoming the first woman in Maine history to serve consecutive terms as her party’s caucus leader, demonstrating the strong support of her peers,” he said.

Espling is a busy volunteer in New Gloucester, serving on its Public Safety Committee, and at the church where her husband, Steve, serves as minister. A cancer survivor, she home-schooled her two sons and two daughters before winning a legislative seat and continued doing it during her first few terms in Augusta.

A graduate of the University of Southern Maine, where she earned a degree in business administration, she is a trained budget counselor who has helped teach others how to manage a household budget. She has also operated a cleaning business to help make ends meet.

Timberlake is a co-owner of Ricker Hill Orchards, an eighth-generation family farm. He and his family also own multiple businesses including Northland TrueValue and Northland Holder Inc.

A firefighter in Turner for 37 years, Timberlake has served as chairman of the Turner Planning Board and vice chairman of the Board of Selectmen. He is a member of the Kora Shrine, Nezinscot Lodge and the Turner Ridge Riders.

“As a businessman with deep roots in our community, I know just how important it is to fight for a government that is reduced in scope and is efficient,” Timberlake said. “That is why I’ve spent my time in Augusta working towards fiscal responsibility and accountability.”

His spouse of 40 years is Joline. Together, they have one child and two grandchildren.

Senate President Michael Thibodeau, R-Waldo, said, “Jeff’s family has been an example to all on what hard work and supporting your local communities is all about.”

He called Timberlake “one of the hardest-working legislators in Augusta.”

Mason’s District 22 comprises Litchfield, Wayne, Durham, Greene, Leeds, Lisbon, Sabattus, Turner and Wales. Brakey’s District 20 includes Auburn, Mechanic Falls, Minot, New Gloucester and Poland.

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