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Democrat Eloise Vitelli bests Republican Paula Benoit to claim Bath-area Senate 19 seat

Posted Aug. 27, 2013, at 10:11 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 28, 2013, at 1:44 p.m.

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Eloise Vitelli grins after winning the special Maine Senate District 19 election Tuesday night in Bath.
Eloise Vitelli grins after winning the special Maine Senate District 19 election Tuesday night in Bath. Buy Photo
Paula Benoit watches the returns come in Tuesday night in Bath during a special election to fill a vacant Senate seat in District 19. Benoit lost to Democrat Eloise Vitelli.
Paula Benoit watches the returns come in Tuesday night in Bath during a special election to fill a vacant Senate seat in District 19. Benoit lost to Democrat Eloise Vitelli. Buy Photo
Gretta Wark, treasurer of the Sagadahoc County Democrats, gets results for Topsham on Tuesday night in Bath.
Gretta Wark, treasurer of the Sagadahoc County Democrats, gets results for Topsham on Tuesday night in Bath. Buy Photo

BATH, Maine — Democrat Eloise Vitelli of Arrowsic claimed the Senate District 19 seat on Tuesday, garnering 4,621 votes to Republican Paula Benoit’s 4,339, with just 3 percent of ballots separating the candidates.

Green Independent candidate Daniel Stromgren of Topsham received 357 votes — 4 percent of the total votes cast.

The win maintains a 19-15-1 majority held by the Senate Democrats during the legislative session that concluded last month.

Vitelli, a director of program and policy at Women, Work and Community, will replace former Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall, who resigned in July to head the Northeast region of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Voters in Sagadahoc County’s two largest communities — Bath and Topsham — chose Vitelli, as did Arrowsic, Bowdoinham, Dresden, Georgetown and Richmond. Benoit took Bowdoin, Phippsburg, West Bath and Woolwich.

Vitelli’s strongest showing was in Georgetown, where she took 57 percent of the vote, and Dresden, where 53 percent of voters chose her over Benoit.

The town of Bowdoin turned out strongest for Benoit, with 55 percent of voters opting for the Republican over Vitelli. Phippsburg followed closely with 54 percent.

In November 2008, Goodall narrowly defeated Benoit, a one-term incumbent, to win the District 19 seat before defending it against Republicans David Kaler in 2010 and Jeffrey Pierce in 2012. He served as Senate majority leader during the recently concluded legislative session.

In a release, Vitelli thanked the voters and her volunteers.

“I look forward to beginning my service in the state Senate, where I will be committed to helping workers and businesses by creating a level playing field for all Maine people to have good jobs and succeed,” she said. “I heard from people across the district that they want someone who will stand up for their interests and work collaboratively to strengthen our state. I look forward to serving the people in our community.”

At Byrnes Irish Pub, where Benoit’s supporters had gathered Tuesday night, Benoit said she enjoyed the campaign and thanked her volunteers.

“But I do have to say that I’m very disappointed that Sagadahoc County will continue to be represented by one party. Right now we have a Democrat Senat[or], we have Democrat House members,” she added. “I would not want it to be all Republican. There needs to be a balance, and for the county’s sake, I feel bad that I lost, because I think I could have added that balance to it.”

Vitelli is expected to be sworn in by Thursday, in time to participate in the special session called for Aug. 29 when lawmakers will vote on a $149.5 million state borrowing package.

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