July 3, 2013

House Majority Leader Berry declines SD 19 run; backs Arrowsic woman

By Michael Shepherd mshepherd@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

A top legislative Democrat said late Tuesday he won’t be seeking the soon-to-be-vacant state Senate District 19 seat representing Sagadahoc County, endorsing instead a small-business advocate who has chaired the county Democratic party.

Eloise Vitelli

Contributed photo

Paula Benoit

Staff photo by Jim Evans

After considering running for the seat, House Majority Leader Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, said in a statement that he’ll focus on his family, job and legislative work rather than seek the seat of Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall, D-Richmond, who was appointed the northeast director of the Small Business Administration by President Barack Obama.

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

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

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

Berry, in his fourth legislative terms, 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.”

On the Republican side, former state senator Paula Benoit of Phippsburg has emerged as the most likely 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.

The district should be seen as leaning Democratic, but only slightly. According to state data from November 2012, there are 559 more Democrats than Republicans in the district. But more than a third of voters — more than 11,000 — are independents.

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

Then, Goodall knocked Benoit off 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 -- 621-5632


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