Two Bath city councilors said this week that they would seek the Democratic Party nomination to run in a special election to succeed Rep. Jennifer DeChant, a four-term Democrat who resigned from the Legislature last week to take a private-sector job.
Mari Eosco, chairwoman of the council, and Sean Paulhus, the council’s vice chairman, will likely compete for local Democrats’ OK to run as the party’s nominee in a special election to replace DeChant. Eosco is new to the party while Paulhus has been active in the Maine Democratic Party since shortly after he became old enough to vote.
Eosco was elected to the Bath City Council in 2007 to finish the unexpired term of Jack Hart. She is serving her fourth full term on the council. She recently concluded a 16-month stint as interim executive director of Main Street Bath, and had previously served as executive director from 2002 to 2006.
Paulhus was elected to the council in 2008 to fill the remaining year of an unexpired term, and is also serving his fourth full term on the council. He has worked as an aide in the Maine Senate and House of Representatives.
Eosco registered as a Democrat on Monday, she said. She said Tuesday that she had never previously registered as a member of a political party “because I’ve never needed to do that” and she “enjoyed just making decisions on the information I have.”
“But understanding how things run [in Augusta], it seems like I can be more effective if I am in a party, and I’m very proud to be registered as a Democrat,” she said.
Paulhus wrote in an email Tuesday morning that he had considered a possible run for the Legislature, but had expected to wait until DeChant’s term expired in 2020.
“I know the day-to-day workings of the State House and have already built relationships there,” he said.
He said his experience in local and state government would help him advocate for the city of Bath.
No primary will take place. Instead, members of the Bath Republican and Democratic committees from District 52 will choose their nominees. Green Independent Party members in the district also could caucus to pick a nominee, and unenrolled voters could gain a spot on the ballot by submitting nomination papers with signatures of 50 valid voters before the nomination deadline set by the secretary of state.
Calls to local Democratic and Republican committees were not returned Tuesday morning.
Kristin Schulze Muszynski, spokeswoman for Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, said Tuesday that DeChant notified Dunlap’s office last week and it became effective on Friday. Dunlap’s staff will work with Gov. Janet Mills to formally declare the vacancy and set the special election date, she said.
The House seat representing Bath has been solidly Democratic for two decades. DeChant easily won her four races for the seat since 2012, never finishing with less than 62 percent of the vote.
She is the second Democrat elected in November 2018 to give up a seat in this Legislature after Aaron Frey of Bangor refused to be sworn in so he could be elected attorney general by the new Legislature. Voters in Bangor and Orono will pick Frey’s replacement on March 12.
Neither election will have a strong impact on the balance of power in the Maine House of Representatives, where Democrats hold a solid majority.
BDN writer Michael Shepherd contributed to this report.