Two Republicans are competing for the chance to challenge longtime Rep. Chellie Pingree for her seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Andrew Piantidosi of Cape Elizabeth, who formerly worked in sales and business development, and Ronald Russell, a retired U.S. Army veteran from Kennebunkport, will face off in the June 11 primary to determine who runs against Pingree in November.

Andrew Piantidosi, a Republican vying for the 1st Congressional District seat. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Neither candidate has held elected office before and either would face steep odds running against Pingree, a Democrat seeking her ninth term representing Maine’s 1st Congressional District, which includes southern and coastal regions. A Republican has not held the seat since James Longley Jr., who served one term from 1995 to 1997.

“Family is tantamount to why I’m running,” said Piantidosi, 37. “Maine is like one large family to me. We don’t always see eye to eye and we don’t always get along but we all want what’s best for one another and that’s really why I’m running.”

“I’m a little worried about our nation and the direction it’s been headed over the last three to four years,” said Russell, 69. “It seems our reputation is decreasing around the world. We are becoming less prolific there in terms of the amount of money we make. Our economy is suffering and our citizens are suffering as a result. I want to try and change that.”

Both candidates are focusing on the economy as a key concern.

Advertisement

“I think we need to have a serious understanding of where we’re spending money and how that affects Maine families on a day-to-day basis,” Piantidosi said. “It shouldn’t be that hard to raise a family in Maine and that’s a huge issue.”

Ronald Russell, Republican candidate for 1st Congressional District. Photo courtesy Ronald Russell

“It’s difficult for Mainers to put food on the table for a lot of us,” Russell said. “That’s just not the way life should be.”

Russell also listed divisiveness in politics as a problem he wants to address if elected.

“The biggest thing I could do in Congress is start working with everyone to get something accomplished,” Russell said. “The divisiveness in our nation is killing us as a nation, and that has to stop. I think I can work across the aisle and pass some legislation that will benefit everyone.”

Piantidosi said part of the reason he is running is because of the challenges he and his wife have faced trying to get services for their young daughter with autism, and said he wants to ensure parents get the right resources for their children and have the right to choose their schools. He also said he wants to provide more help for homeless veterans.

“I think there ought to be more programs allocated at the federal level to provide those people the help they need from a mental health perspective but also from a financial planning perspective and how to get them on their feet, and how to help them get jobs and get a re-introduction back into the workforce,” he said.

Advertisement

Both candidates said their career experience and a fresh perspective will make up for their lack of political experience. Piantidosi grew up in Connecticut and moved to Maine with his family five years ago. His wife is originally from Cape Elizabeth.

“I’m very involved in my community,” said Piantidosi, who substitute teaches in South Portland schools and has served on his homeowners association.

“I’ve worked with Fortune 500 companies,” he said. “I think my skill set and having studied politics and history in college, as well as my years in sales, make me uniquely positioned to jump into a leadership role at the federal level.”

Russell grew up in Fort Fairfield in Aroostook County and moved back to Maine in 2021 after his time in the military and running a defense consulting business in North Carolina.

“Given the way the world is today, I think my experience may be more applicable than Congresswoman Pingree’s,” Russell said. “The job is representative to the U.S. Congress. That means you have to come back and talk to the people you represent in order to know how to represent them. I don’t think that happens to the degree it should today.”

Pingree faced Republican Ed Thelander, of Bristol, in her last reelection effort and won easily with 63% of the vote. First elected to Congress in 2008, she has easily defended her seat since then. In 2020, she won reelection with 62% of the vote, and the district is heavily skewed toward registered Democrats.

Advertisement

MEET THE CANDIDATES

Andrew Piantidosi 

Age: 37

Residence: Cape Elizabeth

Political experience: None

Education: B.A. in history from Saint Anselm College

Advertisement

Profession: Worked in sales and business development before running for Congress

Website: Andrew Piantidosi for Congress

Social media: Andrew Piantidosi for Congress on Facebook, @andrewformaine on Instagram, @AndrewforMaine on X

••••••••••••••••••••

Ronald Russell 

Age: 69

Advertisement

Residence: Kennebunkport

Political experience: None

Education: B.S. from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, advanced degree in German from the Defense Language Institute, graduate of the Army War College

Profession: Retired after 30 years of service in the U.S. Army, including as an airborne ranger and Green Beret. Also started and ran a defense consulting business for 15 years.

Website: Ron Russell for Congress

Social media: Ron Russell for Congress on Facebook, @ronrussellforcongress on Instagram, @RussellforHouse on X

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.