An Arrowsic man has announced his candidacy for House District 53, making him the second Democrat vying for the position. William Neilson hopes to bring his experience as the owner of the Solo Bistro restaurant in Bath, a former corporate attorney, and a community volunteer to the Legislature.
His run for House District 53, which encompasses Arrowsic, Dresden, Georgetown, Phippsburg, part of Richmond, and Woolwich, is his second campaign. Neilson was a Democratic candidate for the 2013 special election to fill the Senate seat vacated by Seth Goodall, but was defeated in the primary by Eloise Vitelli.
A supporter of Vitelli, Neilson did not want to compete against her for Senate District 23, he said, and instead entered the race for state representative. He is running against Woolwich Selectman Allison Hepler for the Democratic nomination, which will be decided in the June 14 primary election.
Both Neilson and Hepler are running as clean election candidates, and have made small qualifying contributions to each other’s campaigns, Neilson said. Neilson entered into the race to fulfill his long-held goal of serving in the Legislature, which “is the logical next step” given the breadth of his experience, he said.
“I think I’m the one that will be able to win the general election,” Neilson said. The Democratic candidate will face off against incumbent Rep. Jeffrey Pierce, R-Dresden, in the November general election.
Neilson moved to Maine from New York, where he worked as a corporate attorney in the mid-1990s, to raise his family. A resident of Arrowsic, Neilson and his wife bought 130 Front St. in Bath as an investment.
The building houses several apartments and offices. After the former restaurant in the building went out of business and no other restaurateur came forward to open a new one, Neilson and his wife decided to open Solo Bistro.
Neilson also chairs the Arrowsic Planning Board and is involved in a variety of economic revitalization efforts in Bath. The former chair of the Economic Restructuring Committee of Main Street Bath, Neilson was honored for his work at Bath’s annual Citizen Involvement Day in 2013.
Neilson’s volunteerism is not just limited to the area of economic development and sustainability for the local economy. He was a founding member of the greater Bath elder outreach program, which is now known as SEARCH.
He also served as a guardian ad litem for a child, an experience which opened his eyes to the importance of early childhood education and solidified his decision to run for the Legislature.
“I’ve seen a lot of different things,” Neilson said. “My broad set of experience helps me understand the issues and the modalities needed to get things done.”
A business owner, a champion of local economic development, and former corporate attorney, Neilson said he has the ability to understand the complex economic issues facing the state, which he hopes to deconstruct for his constituents.
Funding for transportation infrastructure, jails, and substance abuse treatment are just a few of the economic issues facing the state that get lost in political rhetoric, Neilson said in a press release. He hopes to cut through the back-and-forth to focus on the bottom line, he said.
The issue Neilson has “been beating the drum about” is the expansion of MaineCare, which, he said, has been misrepresented as a welfare program that will drain the state of tax dollars. According to Neilson, the expansion of MaineCare would actually serve as a stimulus package for Maine by making the state eligible for federal funds.
The failure to expand MaineCare has been “an economic disservice to Maine,” Neilson said.
While Neilson said he recognizes the difficulties the Legislature faces due to its relationship with Gov. Paul LePage, Neilson is an advocate for collaboration. “It’s people joining together that makes things happen,” he said.
“I’ve seen a lot of challenges up close as a business owner and as a volunteer,” he said. “Really, the only way to make progress is through collaboration.”