AUGUSTA – The race to fill the Senate District 19 seat is heating up before its current occupant, Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall, D-Richmond, has left office.

Goodall was appointed by President Obama as regional administrator of the Small Business Administration, overseeing operations in all six New England states. He is expected to take the new position and leave his Senate seat, although he has not submitted his resignation yet.

The special election to fill his seat has statewide significance because if a Republican wins, it will narrow the Democratic majority in the Senate. Democrats now hold a 19-15 majority, with one independent.

Two State House veterans say they are interested in running for the seat, which represents all of Sagadahoc County and the Lincoln County town of Dresden.

House Majority Leader Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, and Paula Benoit, a Republican from Phippsburg who held the District 19 seat from 2006 to 2008, said Thursday that they are “seriously considering” running and have received numerous calls from supporters urging them to run.

Benoit said, “They’re saying, ‘Please, please, we need a moderate person in there, someone level-headed, and a business person.’ And I’m all three. I’m seriously considering it.”

Berry, who is ineligible for re-election to his House District 67 seat because of term limits, said he’s seriously considering a run for Senate District 19, but must consider his obligations to his family and career as he makes that decision.

“I’m going to take my time and make a thoughtful decision that is right for my family and the people of Senate District 19,” Berry said.

A fundraising email from Maine Republican Party Chairman Richard Cebra notes the race’s importance while taking jabs at Berry.

“A victory for the GOP in this race puts us on the path to reclaiming a majority in the Maine Senate next year, as we would have knocked the Democrats down to just 18 seats, the minimum to hold a majority,” the email says, urging people to donate to the party to help fund the race.

Republicans held majorities in the House and Senate from 2011-12, but voters gave control back to Democrats for 2013-14.

Berry said Cebra’s letter is making assumptions because he has not decided whether he will run.

Berry said, “What’s clear from that email, and other signs as well, is this special election for Sen. Goodall’s seat will be a referendum on whether folks in Sagadahoc County and Dresden prefer the top-down policies of Governor LePage, or Democratic values of growing the economy from the middle out.”

 

Keith Edwards can be contacted at 621-5647 or at:

kedwards@centralmaine.com