BIDDEFORD – Three state representatives in Biddeford face challengers in the June 12 primaries who are well known in local politics, creating a Democratic scramble that candidates say they have never seen in their years of experience.

In House District 135, three-term Rep. Paulette Beaudoin is being challenged for the Democratic nomination by Joanne Twomey, who previously represented the district for eight years and served two terms as Biddeford’s mayor.

In District 136, Rep. Megan Rochelo faces Bobby Mills, a city councilor who ran against Rochelo for the nomination in 2010.

In District 137, which includes parts of Biddeford and Kennebunkport, three-term Rep. Alan Casavant, who is Biddeford’s mayor, faces a challenge from Nancy Sullivan, who is leaving the state Senate because of term limits.

Twomey said there seems to be a “silent code” that people shouldn’t challenge incumbents from their party, but she sees primaries as part of the democratic process — a sentiment echoed by Rochelo.

“We have a system where anyone is able to participate and run,” she said. “I think having someone challenge me at this point makes me more accountable than other people who don’t have a challenger.”

Rochelo, a public health professional, said she wants to return to Augusta to continue work on economic development and health care.

“I have found the Legislature and the role of legislator to be one of the most powerful, educational and motivating experiences of my life,” she said.

Rochelo sponsored legislation to increase physical activity in schools, and a bill passed unanimously by the Legislature to give municipalities more flexibility in time frames to spend municipal money on projects.

She said she wants to return to the Legislature to take a hard look at ways to train people for jobs that employers have trouble filling with qualified candidates.

Mills, who lost the District 136 nomination to Rochelo by 66 votes in 2010, said he is running again because he is a strong advocate for people in the district who feel they don’t have a voice in politics.

“My district is a very challenging district because there’s a lot of people who are struggling with lost jobs and losing their homes. They’re having to utilize state services. Every time you turn around, Gov. (Paul) LePage is cutting programs. These are programs that are vital for our community,” he said.

Mills, who works in sales, said his three terms as a city councilor have helped him strengthen his consensus-building skills, which he plans to use in Augusta to address the state budget, social services and veterans issues.

Mills said he decided to challenge Rochelo knowing that some people in the party may object.

“I firmly believe that every race should be contested,” he said. “I don’t believe that when a person is elected they should (automatically) have that seat until they reach term limits.”

This is the first time Beaudoin has had a primary challenger. Twomey said she decided to run because she believes the city needs more aggressive representation in Augusta. She said she would stand up to the LePage administration, which she sees as anti-democratic and anti-worker.

Twomey also wants to make clear to the governor the effect of shifting costs to municipalities, a burden she said she saw firsthand as Biddeford’s mayor.

“I saw the people who needed jobs. You can’t put your head in the sand and pretend the economy is better,” she said. “People are still struggling and need good jobs. People need living wages.”

Beaudoin said she would like to serve a fourth and final term so she can continue to help people, especially the elderly. She has testified before Congress on issues affecting the elderly and pushed for reforms to make prescription drugs affordable. During her current term, Beaudoin supported a bill that banned texting while driving, legislation she said she is “very proud of.”

“I would like to finish what I’ve put in for the past six years,” she said. “I love what I do. I love trying to help people.”

Sullivan, who is termed out of Senate District 4, said she wants to move to the House because the district needs a representative who has enough time to focus on the job. As mayor, Casavant also is chairman of the School Committee.

“I would not have run against this man if he had not been elected mayor,” she said. “For me, it is a time factor. To do a good job up there, you need to be there.”

Casavant, who has represented the district for three terms, is not concerned about the time commitment of both jobs. He said one problem with Augusta is a disconnect between legislators’ actions and the ramifications for municipalities, a separation he no longer feels.

“I can see very quickly (the) issues that are negative for local towns and cities. For me, it is like a perfect marriage,” he said.

Casavant said he wants to return to Augusta to work more closely with education funding, environmental issues and property tax relief.

“In my district, too many people are being driven from their homes because of excessive property taxes,” he said.

Sullivan, who like Casavant is a retired teacher, said she wants to return to Augusta to find ways to create good-paying jobs and make sure workers are trained to fill them. She said she will focus on children’s issues, domestic violence and stimulating the economy to create more jobs.

“We’re not going to grow until we can make this place more vibrant with jobs,” she said.

Staff Writer Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

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