BATH — City Councilor David Sinclair and restaurateur Will Neilson of Arrowsic announced that they will seek to become the Democratic Party nominee in a special election to fill the state Senate District 19 seat being vacated by Sen. Seth Goodall, D-Richmond.
Neilson, Sinclair, and Eloise Vitelli, a workforce development specialist from Arrowsic who announced last week that she would enter the race, will vie for their party’s nomination at the Sagadahoc County Democrats’ caucus later this month.
Republican Paula Benoit, who held the District 19 seat from 2006 to 2008, announced last month that she would run again for the seat. Kyle Rogers, chairman of the Sagadahoc County Republicans, said no other GOP candidate has expressed an interest in running for the seat.
Sinclair, co-owner of Solo Bistro in Bath, said Monday that he hopes to represent District 19 as “a centrist candidate.”
“One of the major reasons I decided to go ahead with it is I’ve seen a lot of polarization,” he said. “The whole state has seen a lot of polarization in each of the two major parties. Through my work on the City Council, I have shown some of my independence and ability to make a judgment regardless of who the person initiating the argument was … I would like to see more of that coming out of Augusta.”
Goodall, the Democratic Senate leader, resigned this week after being appointed to oversee the U.S. Small Business Administration’s New England region.
Sinclair has represented Ward 6 on the Bath City Council since 2008. He is an attorney in a solo practice in Bath.
In a release, he notes among his achievements initiating the Keep Bath Beautiful annual community cleanup and working with leaders of the five member communities in Regional School Unit 1 to reach a compromise on a more equitable method of allocating school district costs.
“I feel strongly that the people should be shaping the party rather than the other way around,” Sinclair said. “I think the people of the district are far more centrist than some of the dialogue in Augusta might suggest. I want to give them an opportunity to elect someone who might be more of a centrist candidate.”
A registered Republican for 26 years, Neilson said Monday that he would bring a unique perspective to the Senate.
“What I think I bring to the race that nobody else does is this change of heart that … comes from what I’ve seen happen to the economy,” he said. “What I’d want to do in my campaign is go against type. I want people to think, ‘Hey, wait a minute. If he’s a longtime Republican who’s now a Democrat, what’s that mean? I want to call into question those simple polarities that are the stuff of reporters’ stories and even more so the stuff of politicians’ stump speeches.”
Neilson, who co-owns Solo Bistro with his wife, is licensed to practice law in several states including Maine, “though I rarely do so,” he said in a press release.
He serves as chairman of the Arrowsic Planning Board and president of the Rotary Club of Bath. He is a member of the Arrowsic Fire Department, and a member of the board of Main Street Bath, among other boards and committees.
“My experience as an entrepreneur and, in particular, as an observer of the consequences of the 2008 meltdown … have led me to conclude that the Republican discourse … has really sort of worked us to a standstill,” he said. “I’ve become convinced that the ideas of low taxes and small government are actually harmful to society as a whole.”
Bronwyn Tudor, chairwoman of the Sagadahoc County Democrats, said Monday that she expects a large percentage of the approximately 70 eligible voters to attend the Democrats’ caucus.
Nominations will be taken from the floor, she said, “and in a sense, you never know who will show up.”
The Maine Senate currently includes 19 Democrats, 15 Republicans and one independent. LePage will set a date for the special election in District 19 after he receives Goodall’s resignation letter, which the Richmond Democrat said he’d submit upon adjournment of the Legislature.
The district includes Arrowsic, Bath, Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Georgetown, Perkins Twp., Phippsburg, Richmond, Topsham, West Bath and Woolwich in Sagadahoc County, and the Lincoln County town of Dresden.
The most recent special election to fill a vacated Maine Senate seat occurred in February 2012, when Democrat Christopher Johnson of Somerville defeated Republican Dana Dow of Waldoboro to replace David Trahan, a Republican who resigned to become executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine.
Johnson’s victory came to be seen as a foreshadowing of the 2012 legislative elections in which Democrats regained majorities in both the Maine Senate and Maine House of Representatives.