AUGUSTA, Maine — State Sen. Ed Youngblood announced Monday that he will not seek re-election this year.
Youngblood, a Republican from Brewer, was elected most recently in 2012, but had served two previous terms in the Senate, from 2000 through 2004. He said Monday that his decision to leave results from a chronic illness he’s been facing for quite some time: age.
“It’s an illness that we all get, if we’re lucky,” he said in a telephone interview. “… I’m 75 now, and I was awfully tired at the end of this session. I drive back and forth every day because I don’t like staying in Augusta, and I concluded that if I was going to do this again, imagine how tired I’m going to be when I’m 77, at the end of the next session.”
Youngblood said his greatest accomplishment in office was the passage of the Omnibus Energy Bill in 2013.
The bill was a behemoth piece of legislation, incorporating several different initiatives into one. Its goals include expanding New England’s natural gas infrastructure, boosting funding for energy efficiency, lowering businesses’ electricity costs and making it more affordable for residents to abandon oil heat.
“This is very good public policy for the people of Maine,” Youngblood said, adding that the law would eventually save Mainers between $200 million and $300 million per year.
Youngblood first served in the Senate from 2000 until 2004. After four years in the Senate, Youngblood decided not to seek re-election. His then-wife, Peggy, had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and he said he wanted to spend as much time with her as possible. She passed away that September, and the senator has since remarried.
After he left office, he was replaced by Richard Rosen of Bucksport, who until that point had been a member of the House of Representatives. Rosen’s wife, Kim Rosen, took his seat in the House when Richard moved to the Senate.
Both Rosens were termed out of office in 2012, and Youngblood won back the Senate seat he had vacated eight years earlier. Richard Rosen is now the acting commissioner of the Department of Administrative and Financial Services.
Now, Kim Rosen says she’ll throw her name in to replace Youngblood on the ballot in November. She said she didn’t want to switch from the House to the Senate in 2012, believing that such a jump didn’t honor the spirit of Maine’s term limits law.
Now, she said, she’s ready.
“When Ed first asked me to do this, I didn’t even hesitate,” she said. “I still have a lot to do. Constituents have continued to call me — I guess I’m just easy to talk to — and I thought, ‘I’m really missing that work.’”
A Penobscot County Republican caucus will determine whether Rosen — or someone else — will replace Youngblood on the ballot. Whoever is chosen as the Republicans’ nominee will face Democrat Paul Davis of Brewer.
Monday was the deadline for candidates running in November’s election to withdraw their names from the ballot. Party caucuses from each county have until July 28 to replace any withdrawn candidates.
With the full list of withdrawn candidates — including some “paper candidates” who likely never had any intention of running — solidified, it’s clear for the first time which incumbent lawmakers won’t be returning.
Youngblood joined 10 other state senators and 50 representatives who will leave the Legislature due to term limits, lost primary elections or for personal reasons. That means even if every incumbent running for re-election this year wins, the State House will see roughly one-third of its lawmakers replaced after November’s elections.
Twenty-seven Republican representatives and five Republican senators will not be coming back next year, plus 23 Democratic House members and four Democratic senators. Sen. Dick Woodbury of Yarmouth, the only independent senator, is also not running for re-election. Maine elects 35 senators and 151 representatives every two years. Democrats hold majorities in both chambers.
Among the current lawmakers not scheduled to return are some powerful figures in the Legislature.
Four of the five Republicans on the powerful budget-writing Appropriations Committee are not returning. They are Reps. Kathy Chase of Wells, Tyler Clark of Easton and Dennis Keschl of Belgrade and Sen. Patrick Flood of Winthrop. Together, those four lawmakers hold 28 years of legislative experience.
House Minority Whip Alexander Willette of Mapleton was lauded as the youngest-ever Republican legislative leader in the country, but is leaving the Legislature after just two terms.
The Democrats’ Senate leader, Troy Jackson of Allagash, is staying home after losing a competitive congressional primary to fellow Democratic Sen. Emily Cain, another influential lawmaker who will not be returning to Augusta. Cain hopes to parlay her 10 years of legislative experience — including two years as House minority leader — to the U.S. House of Representatives.
House Majority Leader Seth Berry, a Democrat from Bowdoinham, is also leaving the Legislature after eight years of service.
Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.