- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 15, 2014

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - Democrats and Republicans throughout Maine are making a last-minute drive to find people willing to run for state House and Senate seats this November.

Monday was the last day that candidates could drop out of their races and still be replaced on the ballot this fall. Overall, 50 candidates withdrew following the June 10 primary, leaving it up to their local party committees to find willing contenders or have the races remain uncontested.

While much of the focus has been on the battle for Maine governor, the legislative races remain a top priority for the state’s political parties.

Republicans are hoping to retake control of both chambers from Democrats, who swept back into the majority two years ago. Meanwhile, Democrats say having a strong slate of legislative candidates is essential as they also look to retake the Blaine House.

“What we want to do is make progress here in Maine on a number of issues and we think having Democrats in charge of the Legislature is the best way to do that, alongside governor,” said Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant.

Ten Republicans, one Democrat and one member of the Green Party withdrew their bids for the Senate after the primary by Monday’s deadline, according to the secretary of state’s office. On the House side, 25 Republicans, 10 Democrats and three Green Party members dropped out.

House Republican Leader Ken Fredette said the party remains dedicated to ensuring that all the spots are filled. Several local parties have already held caucuses to pick new candidates and that will continue until the July 28 deadline.

“Our goal continues to have all 151 fielded on July the 28th,” said Fredette, who’s from Newport. “Now, only time will bear out if we are able to do that or not.”

Some candidates drop out of their races after the primary because they were only serving as a placeholder to allow party leaders time to find someone who wants to run. Others, including Republican Sen. Ed Youngblood, who withdrew his re-election bid on Monday, left for personal reasons.

Youngblood, who will soon turn 75, said driving back and forth from his home in Brewer to Augusta was getting tough. Still, the decision was difficult, said Youngblood, who served in the Senate from 2000 to 2004 before returning two years ago.

“It did not come quickly. It did not come easily,” he said.

Many lawmakers won’t be returning to Augusta next year, either because they were term limited, decided not to run again or lost their primary bids.

At least five incumbent Republicans and four Democrats and one unenrolled member won’t be back in the Senate next year. In the House, 23 Democrats and 27 Republicans are either term-limited or decided not to run for-election.


Follow Alanna Durkin at https://www.twitter.com/aedurkin

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