DEXTER, Maine — Democrats gathered Saturday to nominate a candidate for a House of Representatives District 24 seat left vacant when the former candidate relocated to another part of Maine.
Mike Sawtelle, 49, of Dexter was the only nominee considered by a group of eight party activists who gathered Saturday at the Dexter Town Office. Sawtelle, a longtime truck driver for a company in Corinna who has never held an elected office, said he hopes to bring stronger representation to constituents who he said have been underserved by area legislators.
“We need to find out what people in this district want,” he told the gathering. “We need to make sure people’s needs are met and that they’re getting their fair share.”
District 24 includes Charleston, Dexter and Garland in Penobscot County and Athens, Harmony and Ripley in Somerset County.
The seat is currently occupied by Douglas Thomas, R-Ripley, who is running for the Maine Senate District 27 seat currently held by Sen. Douglas Smith, R-Dover-Foxcroft.
Sawtelle will face Republican Frederick R. Wintle of Garland in the November election.
Tammy L. Lockhart of Dexter was the Democrats’ nominee initially, but she announced recently that she has sold her home and is moving out of the district, according to local Democratic Party officials.
Sawtelle said he was recruited to run for the seat by Sherman Leighton of Dexter, a candidate for the District 33 Senate seat against incumbent Sen. Debra Plowman, R-Hampden.
Sawtelle said he intends to campaign aggressively by visiting various local boards and knocking on doors throughout the district.
“I think people would rather meet someone face to face than over the phone,” said Sawtelle, who intends to finance his campaign through the Maine Clean Elections Fund and is soliciting qualifying signatures and seed money.
Wintle, his opponent, is also running a publicly financed campaign, according to the Maine Ethics Commission’s website.
Sawtelle faces a daunting challenge in an area that has been sending mostly Republicans to the Legislature for years.
“It’s an uphill fight for a Democrat,” said Leighton. “We do believe it’s possible, though.”
Dexter Town Manager Dave Pearson, who participated in Saturday’s Democratic caucus, agreed.
“We need to put someone on that ballot,” he said. “We have a real opportunity to get a new face in there without running against an incumbent.”