2012 House and Senate races already taking shape

Assistant House Majority Leader Andre Cushing, R-Hampden, announced his candidacy Wednesday for Senate District 33 in Penobscot County and joined a growing list of lawmakers and hopefuls who have begun to announce their intentions for 2012.

“As a state we must get our financial house in order and we must stop creating laws that punish those who contribute to a strong Maine economy,” Cushing said in his campaign announcement. “We in Augusta must work to create an environment where people want to live, work and enjoy the way life should be. The strength of our state is in the many people who drive our economy, be they farmers, trades people or professionals.”

Cushing hopes to replace Assistant Senate Majority Leader Debra Plowman, R-Hampden, who is term-limited. Brian Duprey, also a Republican from Hampden, also has declared his candidacy for Senate District 33, setting up a primary between he and Cushing.

Several other candidates have filed paperwork with the Maine Ethics Commission, setting up some interesting races already.

In Senate District 5, three Democrats are vying for the nomination to fill the seat that will be left vacant by Senate Minority Leader Barry Hobbins. Those candidates — George Hogan, Donald Pilon and Linda  Valentino — are all current House members. A Republican, Timothy Sevigny, also has entered the race for the District 5 Senate seat.

In Senate District 13, Republicans Rich Cebra and James Hamper will square off in a June 2012 primary. Both are current members of the House and both are term-limited in that chamber. Republican David Hastings currently represents District 13 but he also is in his fourth and final term in the Senate.

In Senate District 25, Democrats Colleen Lachowicz and Dana Hernandez have declared. That seat is held by Sen. Thomas Martin, R-Benton, who was elected to his first term in 2010.

Other Senate candidates include: Democrat Joanne Dunlap (District 18), Republican Thomas Saviello (District 18), Republican Doug Thomas (District 27), Republican Edward Youngblood (District 31), Democrat Daniel Levesque (District 34) and Republican Peter Edgecomb (District 35.)

Saviello and Thomas are running for reelections. All the others are new candidates.

Fewer House candidates have declared but they include: Roger Reed (R, District 23), Thomas Longstaff (D, District 77), Roxanna Hagerman (R, District 98), Diane Russell (D, District 120), Justin Cherette (D, District 134) and Roger Gay (D, District 134).

The list of candidates will no doubt swell in the weeks and months ahead. Both political parties have a good deal at stake. Republicans are eager to keep their majorities in the House and Senate while Democrats will attempt to make gains in the two legislative chambers with the hope of winning back one or both.

Republicans currently hold a 20-14 advantage in the Senate (with one independent) and a 78-72 edge in the House (with one independent). Ten members of the Senate and 24 members of the House are term-limited and cannot run for reelection.