AUGUSTA — Maine GOP Chairman Charlie Webster says he’s identified 24 places in Maine where Republicans running for the Legislature can beat incumbent Democrats.

The Maine Democratic Party says Webster is full of it.

“I’ve stopped taking him seriously,” said Lizzy Reinholt, spokeswoman for the Maine Democratic Party.

So begins the 2012 race for control of the state Legislature.

With both sides already bragging they have the biggest and best field of candidates, voters will be barraged with glossy mailers and eager candidates knocking on doors across the state.

All 186 seats are up for grabs, with Republicans wanting to keep control of the House and Senate, and Democrats looking to take one or both chambers.

SENATE RACES AT A GLANCE

While November promises to be big – keep an eye on Scarborough and Bangor, we’re told – there will be some feisty primaries on June 12. There are 11 Senate primaries and dozens in the House. Here’s a quick look at four Senate races.

In Senate District 5, Rep. Don Pilon, D-Saco, will face Rep. Linda Valentino, D-Saco, for the Democratic nomination. There’s already been some bad blood between the two because Valentino opened a constituent office in Pilon’s House district, which prompted him to file a complaint with the ethics commission.

Senate District 13 will feature two incumbent House Republicans. Rep. Richard Cebra, R-Naples, will face Rep. Jim Hamper, R-Oxford.

In central Maine, former legislator and former Hallowell Mayor David Bustin will face Priscilla Jenkins of Winthrop in a Democratic primary for Senate District 21.

And in Senate District 33, three Republicans are vying for the nomination. Assistant House Majority Leader Andre Cushing of Hampden; Rep. David Richardson of Carmel and James Emerson of Corinna have all qualified for the ballot. One other interesting note is that Ruth Summers, wife of Secretary of State Charlie Summers, has filed to run for Senate District 6. Ruth Summers of Scarborough is vice-chairman of the Maine Republican Party and her husband is competing in the U.S. Senate primary. The full list of candidates can be found at www.maine.gov/sos/cec/elec/2012/primcan2012.htm

GOOD NEWS ON THE ECONOMY

Labor Commissioner Robert Winglass shared a bit of good news about Maine’s economy at a town hall meeting last week.

He pointed to a recent Forbes Magazine ranking that put the Greater Portland area sixth on a list of “Best and Worst Cities for Jobs this Spring.” The magazine says the Portland-South Portland-Biddeford area is likely to see 19 percent job growth.

While job statistics have been hotly debated in recent weeks, the Maine Department of Labor expects further analysis will confirm Maine gained 2,000-4,000 private sector jobs in 2011, said spokesman Adam Fisher.

The news from Forbes is much better than it was last fall, when the magazine ranked Maine last on a list of best places to do business. Gov. Paul LePage said it was due to Maine’s welfare and energy costs, but editors at the magazine said it was because of business costs, workers who move out of state, and a weak jobs and economic outlook.

NEW COURT SYSTEM FOR VETERANS

A new court system that will serve military veterans with substance abuse problems or mental illness earned final passage last week and was signed into law by the governor.

Rep. Maeghan Maloney, D-Augusta, sponsored the legislation, which directs the chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court to establish the new system. Federal funds will be used to pay for the courts, Maloney said.

The bill was dedicated to the memory of former Army Ranger Justin Crowley-Smilek of Farmington, who was killed during a confrontation with police after returning from Afghanistan.

KING NAMES CAMPAIGN MANAGER

Kay Rand of Hallowell, former chief of staff for Gov. Angus King, will serve as campaign manager for King’s U.S. Senate race, King announced recently.

“Kay is a top-notch political professional and a close personal friend,” King said in a statement. “She will bring good Maine judgment to the campaign and we have the luxury of having worked together with each other for years.”

King also hired Crystal Canney, one of Democratic Gov. John Baldacci’s spokeswomen, to serve as his campaign communications director.

LOTTERY TICKETS GOING ONLINE

A new bill making its way through the Legislature would allow the state to sell lottery tickets over the Internet – but not until after Sept. 1, 2013.

The bill is the product of a legislative subcommittee that wanted to make sure Maine could take advantage of a new federal ruling that allows states to sell tickets online.

The bill requires the director of the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations to develop the system and report back to lawmakers in December. It’s L.D. 1880 and is one of four bills scheduled for public hearing today at 1 p.m. before the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee.

MaineToday Media State House Writers Susan M. Cover and John Richardson contributed to this column.