ST. JOHN, Maine — A new Democratic candidate has entered the race for Maine House District 1 after the party’s initial nominee, Toby Jandreau, voluntarily withdrew from the election.
Dana Appleby, 53, of St. John will represent the Democrats to take on Republican Austin Theriault, a former NASCAR race car driver from Fort Kent.
The candidates are vying to replace longtime legislator Rep. John Martin, D-Eagle Lake, who cannot run for reelection due to term limits.
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Jandreau, a Fort Kent attorney, dropped from contention for the House seat to accept a position as director of a soon-to-be-established free legal aid clinic in the town.
“That’s the project I have wanted to see up and running for 10 years. I just couldn’t do that and the Legislature and my practice simultaneously,” Jandreau said.
House District 1 includes Allagash, Fort Kent, New Canada, Saint Francis, St. John Plantation, Eagle Lake, Winterville Plantation, Wallagrass, Portage Lake, Ashland, Masardis, Garfield Plantation, Nashville Plantation and Clayton Lake township.
Appleby wants to protect the rights and freedoms of all Maine residents, including reproductive health rights, same sex marriage and the rights of the LGBTQ and minority communities, she said. She also will also fight for teachers and students at all levels of education.
Appleby has worked in education for many years having taught kindergarten, first and second grades and as an education technician and substitute teacher. She also owned a licensed daycare center and worked as a child development services early intervention case manager. She volunteers at St. Francis Public Library.
She has also served on the School Board for Duluth Edison Charter School in Duluth, Minnesota, and was elected president of the parent/teacher organization of Woodside Elementary School in Topsham.
Originally from Minnesota, Appleby and her family first moved to northern Maine in 2001 when her husband, Don, who has family ties to the St. John Valley, accepted a job as a manager at a local call center. The family left when the call center shut its doors in 2006, but always wanted to come back.
“Last year we were offered the opportunity to return to Don’s family homestead in St. John Plantation,” Dana Appleby said. “The O’Leary Homestead was founded on the banks of the St. John River in 1891. Don’s mom, Linda, grandfather, David O’Leary, and great grandfather, John O’Leary were all born in the house. We are fortunate to be the caretakers of this special place.”
Dana Appleby said her love for the natural environment of Maine is another driving force behind her decision to run for the House seat. Her other priorities if elected are to provide affordable health care, housing and daycare for all Maine citizens, she said.
Despite joining the race late in the game, Appleby is confident there is plenty of time to get her name and platform out to voters before the November election.
She has nothing negative to say about her opponent, but said she and Theriault just have different political priorities.
“I know Austin and his family from when we lived here before. I know him to be a kind and respectful person,” Appleby said. “I have enjoyed following his career and just feel strongly about protecting the rights of women, minorities and the LGBTQ+ communities. I also want to discuss health care reform and gun control.”
Chairperson of Aroostook County Democrats Brandon Dayton said Appleby is the right choice to fill the District 1 seat.
“This decision was ultimately made by the Fort Kent Democratic Committee and the vote was unanimous,” Dayton said. “We are excited Dana has decided to step into a position of leadership.”
Appleby said she is working on qualifying for Maine Clean election funding and has collected almost 40 of the 60 contributions needed to qualify.
“I am excited to see how I can make a difference for Maine and Northwestern Aroostook County,” Appleby said.