A former Biddeford mayor and a longtime local politician elected in a recent special election are facing off in the race for the Democratic nomination in Senate District 32.

Sen. Susan Deschambault, a former Biddeford city councilor who is serving a partial term in the legislature, faces a challenge from Joanne Twomey, a former state representative and Biddeford mayor known for her activism.

The primary winner will run against Republican Stephen Martin of Biddeford in November. Martin lost a special election for the District 32 seat in March to Deschambault.

Deschambault won the special election to fill the seat of David Dutremble, a Biddeford Democrat who resigned for personal reasons. When she arrived in Augusta for her swearing-in ceremony, it was abruptly canceled by Gov. Paul LePage in response to Democrats voting against Steven Webster’s nomination to the Maine Unemployment Insurance Commission.

Twomey was certified to run in the primary after a Biddeford resident challenged the validity of the signatures on her nomination petitions. Both Deschambault and Twomey are well-known in Biddeford, where they have been active in local politics for years. Both are running as clean election candidates and have received $10,000 in public campaign funding.

Deschambault, who retired from the Department of Corrections after 43 years, is chairman of the Biddeford Planning Board. She was a two-term city councilor and served on the city’s Police Commission for 12 years. She had been contemplating a run for office when Dutremble resigned. She said now is the right time in her life to commit the hours needed to represent York County and collaborate with other state senators.

“I had a taste of (the senate) for three weeks and I really felt at ease,” she said. “There are things to do and I am embracing the whole district. It’s beyond Biddeford. When you sit up in Augusta, you really do think of those faces and those people back home. You’re there to represent them and I take that very seriously.”

Senate District 32 includes Alfred, Arundel, Biddeford, Dayton, Kennebunkport and Lyman.

During the short time she was in Augusta before the session ended, Deschambault said she was impressed by the level of respect among legislators and wants to continue working with senators on both sides of the aisle. If she returns to Augusta, she says she would use her experience in criminal justice to work on addiction issues to address the heroin epidemic.

“We need to seriously talk about treatment for addiction and put funding in place,” she said.

Deschambault, 68, also is concerned with economic growth, an issue that she says residents of the district seem worried about. She said the district includes towns that depend on agriculture, tourism and other industries, and wants to be able to support them without taking away “the flavor of the communities.”

Deschambault said she is interested in learning more about the medical marijuana program and whether there are loopholes in the state law that need to be addressed. Several towns in York County – including Saco, Sanford and Biddeford – are among the municipalities across the state grappling with an increasing number of marijuana growers using commercial spaces.

Twomey, 70, is known for her passionate defense of vulnerable Mainers, including children and seniors. That passion has landed her in the news several times, including after an April 2015 incident in which she flipped a jar of Vaseline onto the stage where LePage was speaking. The gesture was a reference to a high-profile incident during budget negotiations in 2013 when LePage said a Democratic state senator “claims to be for the people, but he’s the first one to give it to the people without providing Vaseline.”

“They like to paint me as the girl with the Vaseline,” Twomey said. “But I’m not going to be the Democrat who is going to roll over. I’m going to speak up and make sure they know the people I represent are really struggling.”

Twomey said she believes LePage should be impeached.

Twomey’s involvement in politics – including two terms as mayor and eight years in the legislature – has often centered around voicing the concerns of residents who struggle to stay in their homes and pay bills. As a state representative, she tried unsuccessfully to introduce legislation for a living wage, she said. She supports efforts to raise the minimum wage and says it’s time for a strong voice in Augusta to speak on behalf of people in the district who are cannot make ends meet despite working multiple jobs.

“Many people cannot afford to feed their families. They’re struggling,” she said. “I think we need someone who is going to stand up and say enough is enough.”

If elected, Twomey, 70, said one of the most pressing issues she wants to tackle is access to health care.

“The number one issue that I will take this governor to the wall on is the Medicare funds he is not accepting,” she said, noting she often talks to voters who have lost their insurance and can’t afford to see a doctor. “I think the governor refusing to take that money is just unbelievable. People shouldn’t have to beg for medication. This has to stop.”

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

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