A top Democratic legislator says he won’t seek the soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat representing Sagadahoc County, and instead endorses a small-business advocate who has chaired the county party.

After considering running for the seat, House Majority Leader Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, said in a prepared statement late Tuesday that he will focus on his family, his job and his legislative work rather than seek the seat of Sen. Seth Goodall, D-Richmond.

Goodall, the Senate majority leader, was appointed the Northeast director of the Small Business Administration by President Obama.

Ericka Dodge, a legislative spokeswoman for Goodall, said he will resign July 9, and Sagadahoc County Democrats are expected to caucus later this month to choose a nominee for the seat. The district covers all of Sagadahoc County and Dresden, in Lincoln County.

Berry and Goodall are endorsing Eloise Vitelli, 64, of Arrowsic for the Senate seat.

She works as director of program and policy development for Women, Work and Community, a statewide group focused improving the standing of women in business and communities. She chaired the Sagadahoc County Democrats from 2004 to 2008.

Berry, in his fourth legislative term, was seen by many as the Democrats’ top choice for the seat, but Vitelli said she has plenty of experience.

In her job, she said, she has worked with legislators on developing policy related to entrepreneurship and job creation.

“It’s an institution and place I’m fairly familiar with,” she said. “I have some experience in developing legislation and seeing it through the process.”

Former state Sen. Paula Benoit of Phippsburg has emerged as the most likely Republican candidate for Goodall’s seat.

In a statement last month, she said she was considering running. A special election to fill the seat will be called later this year, but the date hasn’t been announced.

According to state data from November, the district has 559 more Democrats than Republicans. More than a third of its voters – more than 11,000 – are Independents.

The area also has a history of close races: Benoit beat an incumbent Democrat, Arthur Mayo, by 602 votes in 2006. Mayo was elected as a Republican two years earlier, but he switched his affiliation shortly thereafter.

Goodall unseated Benoit in 2008 by 162 votes. After that, he widened his margins, winning by nearly 1,300 votes in 2010 and nearly 6,000 in 2012.

 

Michael Shepherd can be contacted at 621-5632 or at:

mshepherd@mainetoday.com