July 13, 2020

Two more enter race for seats in Maine House

Two more city councilors tossed their hats into the ring Monday in bids to gain seats in the Maine House of Representatives. Charles Sullivan, a Democrat, and Richard Stone, a Republican, both filed papers beginning their races for the seat vacated by Sullivan’s wife, Mary.

Councilor William Cohen announced his candidacy earlier this month. He is running for the seat vacated by Rep. Sean Faircloth.

Today’s announcements are further fallout from Sen. George J. Mitchell’s announcement early this month that he would not seek another term in the U.S. Senate. The path from Mitchell’s announcement to the city councilors’ candidacy is a tortuous one. After Mitchell dropped his bombshell, 2nd District Rep. Olympia J. Snowe announced she would pursue Mitchell’s seat in the Senate. That prompted state Sen. John Baldacci, Mitchell’s cousin, to announce his candidacy for the 2nd District seat. In response to Baldacci’s announcement, Bangor Reps. Sean Faircloth and Mary Sullivan announced their bids for the now-vacant state Senate seat.

With the Maine political picture thrown into disarray, the Democratic party approached Sullivan about running for his wife’s seat in the House of Representatives, Sullivan said.

“Senator Mitchell did it all,” Sullivan said. “I would not be running without Mitchell’s decision.” Both Stone and Cohen said they contemplated running before Mitchell’s announcement but acknowledged that the announcement helped solidify their decisions to run for the state Legislature.

None of the candidates will abandon City Council duties. Under the city charter, even if elected to another office, council members can retain their seats, so the latest round of political maneuvering likely won’t have a drastic effect on Bangor.

Cohen will finish out his council term. “If you run for office, you need to commit to the whole term,” he said.

“I would not be running for the state Legislature if I had to choose one (either the city council or the Legislature),” he said.

Sullivan said he would be able to fulfill his council duties for the year remaining in his term while serving on the Legislature because the council and Legislature schedules are complementary.

Stone’s term on the council will be over before he would begin service in the state Legislature.

The council has not typically served as a breeding ground for politicians heading for higher offices, said City Clerk Russ McKenna. The most prominent graduate of the Bangor City Council is U.S. Sen. William Cohen. He served on the council from 1969 to 1972, before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1972. He served in the House until 1979 when he moved to the U.S. Senate.

Other graduates of the Bangor City Council include Mary Sullivan, a current state representative seeking a spot in the state Senate; John Baldacci, a state senator running for the 2nd District spot in the U.S. House of Representatives, and state Reps. Jane Saxl and Hugh Morrison.

Although the three candidates won’t admit to higher political ambitions, they believe service on the City Council prepares them well for the Legislature.

“Politics takes a certain patience, compromise and understanding,” Cohen said. Service on the City Council gives a candidate an appreciation and understanding of the “nitty-gritty” details that go into running an entity no matter how large or small, he said.

The three will be running on a platform of fighting for the interests of cities like Bangor. They say that the needs of cities are lost in the political posturing in Augusta.

“If you want to improve the situation (for cities), you need to do it at the state level,” Stone said.

One of Stone’s primary missions in the House would be to stop the political infighting that now paralyzes state government. “You can’t get anywhere by fighting with people,” he said. However, Stone would not shy away from standing up and fighting legislation that would harm Bangor and its taxpayers.

His Republican counterpart in the House race, Sullivan, has a similar agenda. He said the state Legislature needs more people with city experience, people who understand that city taxpayers are stretched to the limit.

“My main interest is to see that cities get their fair share,” he said.

Cohen also said the interests of the City of Bangor will remain his primary concern. Those interests are not now being well represented in the Legislature, Cohen said. This is not a reflection on Bangor’s legislative delegation but rather is a function of the political process that takes place in Augusta, Cohen said.

Although Sullivan would be succeeding his wife in the Legislature, don’t expect him to blindly continue her policies.

“We don’t always agree,” he said. “I’m my own person.”

In response to speculation that Sullivan is running merely to secure his wife’s spot so she would be able to return to the House of Representatives in the event she loses her Senate primary, Sullivan said he would not bow out of the race if his wife loses.

“I’m in it to win,” he said.

“And I’ll leave no Stone unturned,” he added jokingly refering to his potential Republican opponent.

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