UPDATE: Republican, 2 Democrats eye Maine Senate seat to be vacated by South Portland's Bliss

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SOUTH PORTLAND — At least two Democrats and one Republican said they are considering running to replace state Sen. Lawrence Bliss, D-South Portland, who announced his resignation Tuesday.

State Rep. Cynthia Dill, D-Cape Elizabeth, and attorney Paul Aranson, a Scarborough Democrat, on Wednesday said they may seek the Senate District 7 seat that represents South Portland, Cape Elizabeth and part of Scarborough.

Joseph Palmieri, the Scarborough Republican who lost to Bliss by 75 votes last fall, said he is also pondering a possible campaign.

Bliss was laid off almost 16 months ago as the director of the Career Center at the University of Southern Maine. He said he has accepted an administrative position at California State University-East Bay and will serve his last day in the Senate on April 15.

Dill is serving her third term representing House District 121. She said while Bliss’ resignation is a loss for the community, she understands the need to make a living and said she will miss him.

“He did a great job for the people of our district,” Dill said. “In addition to working with him, he is my Senator, too.”

Dill said she is interested in running, but the election would not be “a shoe-in.” If she does decide to run for the Senate, an election will have to be held to fill her seat in the House.

“I hope for the opportunity to run for Senate,” she said. “I have the experience and especially in this session have been a strong voice to speak out against some of the proposals before us.”

Aranson, 60, has lived in Scarborough for 25 years and is no stranger to politics: he was the elected Cumberland County district attorney for two terms in the 1980s. He is now an attorney with Scaccia, Lenkowski, Aranson & Bartlett in Sanford, but also has a musical background: Aranson played with the Tony Boffa Band for nine years and was the cantor at Temple Beth El in Portland for 10 years.

“I don’t like to run against incumbents in my own party,” Aranson said Wednesday. “But I’ve been thinking about it and in talking to people will see if I am a palatable candidate for the Democratic party.”

Palmieri on Wednesday said he has received an overwhelming amount of feedback from supporters urging him to run again.

“To receive all these texts, phone calls and Facebook messages is flattering and makes me feel very good, but I honestly haven’t made up my mind,” her said.

Palmieri is a morning sports show host on WJAB radio and owner of the Chicago Dogs restaurant in Scarborough. He said last year’s District 7 race, which included a recount, was a good campaign.

“But it takes a lot out of us, my family, my business,” he said. 

Palmieri said he plans to think about running again over the next few days and will come to a decision soon. 

“If someone else decides to run, I owe it to them to make a quick decision,” he said.

Bliss has served 11 years in state government. After serving in the House of Representatives for eight years and as the chairman of the Joint Standing Committee on Utilities and Energy for six years, Bliss said he is proud of many of his accomplishments.

While working on the greenhouse gas initiative and serving as a member of the Joint Standing Committee on Utilities and Energy, he said he has “successfully and dramatically moved Maine to a greener, more environmentally-sensitive state.”

He also said working on equity issues and lead paint testing are proud moments in his political career.

“What I have really enjoyed is being a part of a citizen legislature,” he said. “I like that Maine encourages anybody to participate in the legislative process and they can make it their own experience.”

According to state Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland, Bliss’ retirement will be a huge loss for the state Legislature.

“We are losing institutional memory and someone with an unbelievable work ethic,” Alfond said. “Personally, he was someone I could talk to, he was always so accommodating and engaging to me. It is a tough loss for us in the state, but what a wonderful new beginning for him and his family.”

Bliss said he has enjoyed serving and will not pursue a political career in California.

“That is absolutely not going to happen,” he said.

Gov. Paul LePage will set the date for a special election to fill the District 7 seat sometime after April 15.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net

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State Sen. Lawrence Bliss, D-South Portland, has announced his resignation.

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