Election 2016: Incumbent Topsham state Sen. Baker faces challenge in District 23 GOP primary

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TOPSHAM — State Sen. Linda Baker, R-Topsham, must fend off a challenge in June’s primary election from fellow Republican Guy Lebida of Bowdoin.

The winner in November will face former Sen. Eloise Vitelli of Arrowsic, the Democrat unseated by Baker two years ago. Baker is running for a second, two-year term in Senate District 23, which covers all of Sagadahoc County and the Lincoln County town of Dresden.

Lebida, 59, is married and has four children and nine grandchildren. He owns Our Father’s Business – a construction and excavation company – and Bowdoin Pines mobile home park.

Lebida was a 1st Lieutenant in the U.S. Army National Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers, and was chairman and member of the Planning Board in Bar Harbor, where he owned, built and developed Stone Haven Cottages and Condominiums.

He was chairman of the Republican Committee in Bowdoin until March, and is an executive board member and vice chairman of the Sagadahoc County Republican Committee.

Baker, 68, is the widow of former Topsham Fire Chief Clayton “Skip” Baker. She has three children and five grandchildren, and taught in Bath from 1980-1985, and at Mt. Ararat High School from 1985-2011. Baker later taught at Merrymeeting Adult Education.

Baker served on the Board of Selectmen for three years in the 1980s, spent five years on the Blaine House Scholarship Selection Committee, and 10 on the Jobs for Maine Graduates Advisory Board.

As a senator, she has chaired the Marine Resources Committee, and served on the Committee on Bills in the Second Reading, and the Insurance and Financial Services committee.

Lebida, who has lived in Bowdoin about 25 years, ran for Sagadahoc County commissioner four years ago. He said in an interview April 28 that he is running for state Senate because “I’m really disturbed about the voting record of our state senator.”

He cited as an example Baker’s vote last June in favor of LD 369, which as amended granted welfare for two years to non-citizens, specifically those seeking asylum. That bill passed 29-5, with the yeas mixed between Democrats and Republicans and all five nays coming from Republicans.

“Our own FBI director … has said we’re not safe anymore because there are terror cells in all 50 states,” Lebida said.

He said he is also “concerned about all the extra taxes and regulations that our senator voted in, too.”

“That bill was about people who are here legally; they are legal asylum seekers,” Baker said in an interview April 28. “And they are not permitted by federal law to work for 180 days that they are here.”

The bill enabled them to receive benefits for up to two years, she added.

“It doesn’t make sense to allow people to … be here legally, and then tell them we’re not going to help them at all,” Baker said. “‘We won’t let you work, but we’re not going to help you survive.’ That didn’t make sense to me.”

Most of the asylum seekers are not from the Middle East, but rather other areas such as southern Africa, she noted.

In choosing to run again, Baker said, “we’re just getting underway with a lot of things. … I’d like to continue a lot of the work that we’ve started, with regard to welfare reform and alleviating some of the tax burdens, as well as … dealing with our drug issue.”

“We’ve made great headway,” she added.

If elected, Lebida said, he would most like to tackle welfare reform and reducing energy costs; he is an advocate of increased hydro power use, which he called a more economically feasible option than wind power.

“There are a lot of companies that wanted to move here to Maine – high-paying, clean manufacturing jobs – that haven’t because of electric rates going up, because of wind power,” Lebida said.

Government accountability, transparency and keeping tax dollars down (or at least spending wisely) are issues on which Baker said she would like to continue working, if re-elected.

Growing jobs and small businesses are other areas where she would like to continue focus, she added.

Baker said she makes a strong candidate because she is honest, has no personal agenda, and remains deeply involved in her community and connected with her constituents.

Lebida said he is a candidate with good common sense, who knows how to listen to people and make decisions based on fewer regulations and taxes, to make living in Maine more affordable.

The primary election will be held Tuesday, June 14.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.