2013-07-03 / Front Page

Berry won’t seek Senate seat

BY BOB MENTZINGER Times Record Staff
ARROWSIC

Eloise Vitelli announced today she will run for state Senate District 19, setting up for now a two-woman race to represent Sagadahoc County in the State House.

In a statement, state Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, said he “preferred at this time to focus on his family and his work as vice president of Kennebec River Biosciences,” and to complete his current term.

Berry — the current House majority leader — was widely seen as the Democratic Party favorite for the seat. He is serving his fourth consecutive term representing House District 67 and is prevented by term limits from running for re-election. The Senate seat afforded him an opportunity to run in the 2014 general election as a virtual incumbent.

Berry did not return a call seeking comment this morning.

Since 2008, the seat has been held by state Sen. Seth Goodall, D-Richmond, who currently serves as Senate majority leader.

Goodall is vacating the seat for a presidential appointment to the Small Business Administration in Boston, and will formally resign July 9. Deputy Secretary of State Julie Flynn said Gov. Paul LePage will issue a proclamation setting the date of the special eleection upon Goodall’s resignation.

Former state Sen. Paula Benoit, a Phippsburg Republican, said last week she will seek the seat, which she held from 2006 to 2008, “after many of my former constituents asked me to.”

Benoit represented Senate District 19 during the 123rd Legislature and earned recognition for championing the rights of the adopted to gain access to their birth records.

But Goodall ousted her by a few hundred votes — 11,158 to 11,041 — in an outcome Benoit contested via recount in 2008. Goodall then won reelection to the seat in November 2012 with 64 percent of the vote.

Vitelli said she will seek her party’s nomination at the Sagadahoc County Democrats’ caucus later this month, as key Democrats such as Berry and Goodall line up behind her.

“I know Eloise is the right person for the job,” Goodall said in a statement. “She is a tireless advocate for small business and has worked her whole life helping increase opportunities for Mainers.”

“Eloise has focused her career on helping others build their businesses,” Berry said in a statement. “As state senator, Eloise will be in a position to continue her focus on building and strengthening Maine’s economy.”

Vitelli has never run for elective office. She was inducted into the Maine Women’s Hall of Fame in 1995 and is described as innovator and an advocate for women’s economic empowerment, a dedicated volunteer, and civic leader.

She currently serves on the Maine Economic Growth Council and has formerly served as Board President of the MidCoast Economic Development District, Community Development Advisory Council for the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Maine Human Resources Development Council and the Arrowsic School and Regional School Unit 1 Transition Committee.

Vitelli also is director of Program and Policy at Women, Work and Community where she has spent her career assisting small businesses. There, she created a statewide job-training program that has assisted more than 3,000 entrepreneurs and assisted unemployed Mainers in starting businesses.

“In order for Maine to be stronger, to compete and grow, we must do more to help businesses and create a level playing field for all Maine people to have good jobs and succeed,” Vitelli said in a statment.

“Through consideration and compromise, we must work together to improve our schools and job opportunities. As a former Head Start teacher and workforce advocate,

I know that education is the backbone to economic development.”

Vitelli has received numerous awards recognizing her work, including the Entrepreneurial Excellence award in 2006 and the Women’s Business Advocate of the Year.

Vitelli lives in Arrowsic with her husband. She has two grown sons, both of whom attended Bath schools.

Senate District 19 includes Arrowsic, Bath, Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Georgetown, Perkins Township, Phippsburg, Richmond, Topsham, West Bath and Woolwich in Sagadahoc County; and Dresden in Lincoln County.

bmentzinger@timesrecord.com

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