AUBURN – Republican Matt Leonard said state Sen. Ned Claxton, an Auburn Democrat, is “a super, super nice guy.”

Matt Leonard File photo

But he hopes to send him packing.

Leonard, 43, said Tuesday that he’s going to run against the first-term senator in Maine’s 20th Senate District and hopes he won’t have to deal with a GOP primary first.

Leonard, who lost a City Council race in November, said the dynamics of a Senate race are different because the district spans several towns and the race relies less on personal relations than in a purely local contest.

The council, he said, “is not the right size and scope for my skill set.”

Leonard, a Maine native, served 21 years in the U.S. Navy, retiring as a senior chief petty officer. He is a multi-tour combat veteran.

A business consultant, Leonard said he would push in Augusta for lower taxes, fewer regulations and greater personal liberty.

“We need to make it easier for people to live their best lives,” Leonard said.

He said that while “people really like Ned,” they don’t necessarily agree with his positions on the issues. Claxton, he said, “does what he’s told” by Democratic leaders.

Claxton, a retired physician, hasn’t said whether he will seek re-election. He won the seat in 2018 in a close race against Republican Ellie Espling of New Gloucester.

Before Claxton’s victory, the seat had been held for two terms by Republican Eric Brakey of Auburn, who gave it up for an unsuccessful U.S. Senate bid. Brakey is vying for the 2nd Congressional District seat.

The district, which includes Auburn, New Gloucester, Poland, Minot and Mechanic Falls, has often flipped between parties over the years. It is among the seats that Republicans are most keen to win back in 2020.

Leonard, a veteran who founded Military Talent Source, said he anticipates a lot of outside interest in the race, but hopes both sides will continue to refrain from nasty campaigning — something both Claxton and Espling decried in 2018.

The two contenders the last time around got along well with each other, and expressed dismay at the way outside groups poured so much venom into the race.

Leonard, a former executive director of the Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, said he will start collecting the 100 signatures he needs this week.

He said he hasn’t heard of anyone else seeking Republican backing in the race.


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