Two experienced legislators, Republican Abden Simmons and Democrat Wendy Pieh, will face off for a seat in House District 45 in the June 13 special election to fill the seat previously held by Clinton Collamore, D-Waldoboro.
Republicans chose between Simmons and Becky Stephens, both of Waldoboro, in a caucus on Wednesday, March 29. Democrats nominated Pieh, of Bremen, unopposed on March 26. Write-in candidates for the seat must file with the secretary of state by 5 p.m. on April 7.
House District 45 consists of Bremen, Louds Island, and Waldoboro in Lincoln County and Friendship and Washington in Knox County.
Over 190 Republicans gathered in the gymnasium of Coastal Christian School in Waldoboro to choose a candidate by caucus. Simmons and Stephens were both nominated from the floor and given three minutes to speak.
Stephens, speaking first by a coin flip, said her 30-year career in health care has given her connections “on both sides of the aisle,” which she believed would win the race.
Born and raised in the Midcoast, she worked in physical therapy for more than 30 years, the last 12 in Waldoboro. Stephens said she has been a foster parent for more than a decade and served as a Maine court-appointed special advocate for child protection cases.
Before moving to Waldoboro, she was a member of the Lincolnville School Committee.
In her speech, she said she was worried about her children and grandchildren being able to pursue the American dream like she did and referenced a looming crisis in healthcare and human services on the state level.
Stephens also voiced opposition to renewable energy projects and the Pine Tree Power referendum for a consumer-owned utility takeover on this November’s ballot.
Stephens said she had the “desire, determination, and time” to campaign, citing her current part-time employment at RSU 40.
“We’ve lost the last seven special elections,” she said. “We don’t want it to be eight.”
Simmons spoke about his background as a lifelong shellfish harvester and his accomplishments in over 20 years as chair of the Waldoboro Shellfish Committee and seven years on the select board. He said he would continue to fight for the Maine fishing industry in Augusta.
At the local level, Simmons referenced the Medomak Project restoring river health and limiting fishing closures and his background in clamming.
As a member of the Waldoboro Select Board, he pointed to the institution of a community navigator in the town office to connect residents to resources, helping over 150 families in the first year and keeping two from losing their homes, and his involvement with current plans by Volunteers of America to turn the former A.D. Gray School into affordable senior housing.
He said change in education is also needed in Augusta.
Simmons and his wife, April, have owned clam-buying operation A & A Shellfish Inc. since 1996. He served in the Maine House of Representatives in District 91 from 2016-2018 and sat on the Marine Resources Committee there.
“This town means more to me than most people realize,” Simmons said.
Simmons received 105 votes to Stephens’ 85.
“I decided to run because it can be won by me,” Simmons said after the caucus.
He won Waldoboro in his run for state Senate in November and expects to do so again, along with Friendship.
“We need good representation up there,” he said of the seat in Augusta.
Collamore, who defeated Lynn Madison, R-Waldoboro, in November, resigned from the Legislature in February following a December indictment on 33 charges – 20 felony charges of aggravated forgery, 11 misdemeanor charges of unsworn falsification, and one count of criminal violation of the Maine Clean Election Act – related to alleged signature fraud in the state’s clean election funding program.
He pleaded not guilty to the charges; a second dispositional conference in early May will determine if the case goes to trial.
The special election for House District 45 will be held on June 13 in each of the district’s towns.
For more information about Simmons’ campaign, go to facebook.com/abdenformaine.