- Police Beat
- The Forecaster
BATH — A longtime city councilor and a retired U.S. Navy captain are the candidates in an April 2 special election to fill the state House District 52 seat vacated by Rep. Jennifer DeChant, D-Bath.
Ken Sener was chosen by a local Republican caucus last month. City Councilor Sean Paulhus defeated fellow City Councilor Mari Eosco 54-39 in a Democratic caucus.
DeChant resigned Feb. 1 to work for Charter Communications, the telecommunications and media company that owns Spectrum. First elected to the House in 2012, she won a fourth term last November and would have termed out in 2020. Her replacement will finish that term.
Paulhus, 33, is married and has three children. He has spent most of his life in Bath, and his home has been in his family for six generations. Elected to the council in 2008 at the age of 22, he became its vice chairman three years ago.
He said he would continue on the council if elected to the House. But state law required him to resign as assistant to the state auditor when he became a candidate. Legislation is possible that could change that restriction, according to Paulhus, who previously was sergeant-at-arms for the state Senate.
Sener, 59, grew up in the Panama Canal Zone. He served in the Navy from 1984-2012, 18 of them in the reserves.
Sener met his wife, with whom he has two children, while assigned to Brunswick Patrol Squadron 26. After time in management positions with International Paper in Wisconsin, he worked with the Bath Iron Works Surface Ship Support Center in Brunswick and has lived in Bath since 2000. He retired in 2012 after eight years as a managing consultant with IBM Global Business Services.
This is the High Street resident’s first bid for political office.
Sener said he loves Maine and its people, and wants to see them prosper, but “I see policies that force retirees to leave the state … that force our kids to leave the state, looking for opportunity.”
Taxation is one of those factors making people leave, Sener said. If the state government is below an optimum point for gaining revenue, it can raise taxes to reach that point.
“If you’re above that optimum point, you can raise taxes and you’ll generate less revenue, as people make decisions to close businesses, (and) to leave the state,” he said.
People need government help, “but by destroying the economic environment, you reduce the tax base, and you don’t have any money to do anything for anybody,” Sener added.
Ecology is another concern. Sener said he has “seen how prosperity and technology allow opportunities to … manage and be good stewards of the environment,” noting that he has witnessed the opposite in developing countries.
As he has knocked on residents’ doors, Sener said, the partisanship in Augusta is one of the complaints he has most encountered.
Paulhus said access to health care resonates with voters everywhere. “The cost of health care and insurance is always one that affects everybody at all levels,” he said.
Ensuring that children have the resources they need to receive a good quality education, and later secure a good quality job, is another concern Paulhus said he has encountered.
Transportation is a personal interest, Paulhus said, sparked in part by his involvement in addressing traffic and pedestrian concerns in Bath’s South End. In the state as a whole, he said, “we really need to do better with our roads and our bridges, and make sure that they’re top-notch, because that affects everybody every day.”
With Maine’s new governor, Democrat Janet Mills, her new cabinet and many new legislators, “this is a very opportune and unique time in the state government,” Paulhus said. “… There’s a chance to really get some things done and move in a new direction. At the Statehouse now, just walking around, you can feel the difference already.”
Sener said he has concerns about the 11 percent hike in Mills’ proposed two-year, $8 billion budget.
“The indicators are that 2020 is going to be a little bit less than 2019 and 2018 as far as (economic) growth and activity,” he said, noting the governor’s spending plan “pulls in every penny of anticipated earnings over the next two years.”
Should the economy slow by a quarter of 1 percent, Sener warned, “we’re going to be piling into debt again.”
While he likes much of what Mills aims to accomplish, “she’s putting us right on the edge,” he said.
Sener said his experience in the business world gives him something to offer to voters, “to be a representative that can dig through the weeds and really understand the implications of things that might sound really good.”
Paulhus said his years at the Statehouse have prepared him to hit the ground running, since the legislative term is well underway. He said he has existing relationships with legislative leadership and staff.
“I can be a positive voice for Bath, and an effective one, right away,” Paulhus said.