AUGUSTA — Assistant Senate Majority Leader Lisa Marraché lost the “fire in the belly” needed to run for the Legislature, prompting her to drop out of the Senate District 25 race, she explained in a statement released Wednesday.

Marraché, a Waterville Democrat and family physician, said in an interview that she struggled for two years with the decision.

“There is no way I can explain the amount of anguish I took in making this decision,” she said.

The 42-year-old has served 10 years in the Legislature — six in the House and four in the Senate.

Throughout that time, she and her husband have raised two children, she’s continued to see patients and she moved up through the ranks to a leadership position. Something had to give.

“It took a long time to say it’s OK to take care of yourself,” she said. “Sometimes you have to do what’s right for you. I need to refocus. My family is ecstatic about that.”

Marraché’s decision follows on the heels of an announcement by another central Maine legislator — Rep. Nancy Smith, D-Monmouth — who said Monday she could not continue her campaign for the Senate this year. In both cases, the women cited the stress of juggling work with legislative service as a factor.

With Democrats in central Maine now looking for two Senate replacement candidates, it sets the stage for a year in which new faces could be a significant part of the Legislature.

Of the 37 House and Senate districts in central Maine, there will be a new legislator in at least 12 seats, a number that would grow if any incumbents are defeated. That number also assumes that three current central Maine House members running for the Senate will win their races — far from a sure thing.

The Legislature is losing some big names.

In addition to Marraché and Smith, both of whom distinguished themselves in their areas of expertise, several others won’t be on the legislative ballot this year. They include House Minority Leader Josh Tardy, R-Newport; Sen. Peter Mills, R-Cornville; Senate President Elizabeth Mitchell, D-Vassalboro, who’s running for governor; and Sen. Carol Weston, R-Montville, a former Senate minority leader.

Mills, who recently lost in the Republican gubernatorial primary, said the combination of a new governor and the loss of experienced legislators will be felt, particularly with regard to the budget.

“Putting this budget together for a new governor and a lot of new leadership is going to be very, very difficult,” he said. “I think of everything we’ve done thus far as a warmup.”

Marraché said timing played a role in her decision.

Looking ahead two years, she said she knew six Senate Democrats would face term limits, making it all the more difficult for her to end her service at that time. This year, only two Senate Democrats are prevented by term limits from running again.

Marraché also said she wants to return to school to get a master’s degree, either with a focus on public health or an business degree with a concentration on health policy.

“My husband kept saying, ‘I think that’s a bit much,'” she said.

In a statement sent to “friends, colleagues and supporters” — and the media — Marraché explained that she “lost what some might call the fire in the belly.”

She described trying to juggle competing demands.

“With the death of my mother almost a year ago and the graduation of my daughter from high school a few weeks ago, I have come to realize that fully committing yourself to multiple callings inevitably leads to a loss of time spent with loved ones,” she wrote. “I have always strived to live my life with no regrets, and that is how I want to leave the Senate.”

Susan Cover — 620-7015

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