Topsham state rep ends re-election bid; Democrats to caucus July 8

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TOPSHAM — First-term state Rep. Andrew Mason, D-Topsham, has decided not to seek re-election to the House of Representatives.

A local Democratic caucus to nominate a replacement candidate in the November election is scheduled for July 8. Denise Tepler, who has run twice for the seat, plans to submit her name for nomination, Mason said last week.

Mason, who was elected to the Legislature in 2012, was an attorney with Reben, Benjamin & March, a Portland firm, and served two years of a three-year term on the Topsham Board of Selectmen before taking office in Augusta.

Withdrawing from the race “is a very difficult decision for me, and it was not made lightly,” Mason wrote June 24 on his legislative Facebook page. “The work of the Legislature is time-consuming and demanding, making it very difficult to balance with a career and family.”

He was unemployed from last December through April, when he took a job as an attorney at the Portland firm of Daniel Lilley, Mason said in an email.

“This is an opportunity that I cannot decline, both for career and family purposes,” Mason said.

Mason was unopposed in the June Democratic primary in state House District 54. Daniel Stromgren, a Maine Green Independent, was also unopposed, and Kim Talbot defeated Susan Dolan in a bid for the Republican nod.

Tepler, a local foods advocate, and freelance teacher and writer, has served two terms on Topsham’s Finance Committee. She was also on the School Administrative District 75 Board of Directors from 1996 to 2002, where she chaired the policy and curriculum committees.

Tepler ran twice unsuccessfully, in 2008 and 2010, against former state Rep. Kerri Prescott, R-Topsham.

Mason said the biggest reward of his work in Augusta was helping his town. He said his accomplishments included a bill that raised a school construction bond cap, along with helping to push for the release of a new round of approved school construction projects, which include Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham.

Helping to restore municipal revenue sharing, which Gov. Paul LePage significantly cut, was another accomplishment, Mason said.

“I loved being in Augusta and working with other legislators both in committee and informally in the halls and building relationships with so many other people to be as effective a representative as I could,” he said.

One of the greatest challenges he has faced, Mason added, “has been seeing up close the ideological rigidness and unwillingness to compromise that is prevalent on so many important issues.”

It was additionally “a learning experience to see the role ‘politics’ plays throughout Augusta,” Mason noted. “(F)or example, I find that often times legislation is introduced for the sole purpose of forcing votes on issues when it is clear that there is no intent to compromise to actually find a solution and the vote will not succeed – but the vote is used simply as a political point to put legislators on the record as being for against a certain issue.

“The legislature can be maddeningly inefficient for those of us used to being in the private sector where results are what matter the most and its a priority to use time efficiently,” he said. “It is frustrating to see how much energy and influence is used to stop things from getting accomplished as opposed to putting that energy to effective use to find solutions.”

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

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Rep. Andrew Mason, D-Topsham.

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.