December 13, 2018
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Midcoast Democrat who became a lawyer in 2014 pulls an upset for DA

Courtesy of Natasha Irving
Courtesy of Natasha Irving
Natasha Irving.

Prosecutors won seats for district attorney in all but one of Maine’s eight prosecutorial districts.

In the midcoast, political newcomer Natasha Irving, a Democrat, upset Republican Jonathan Liberman, who was appointed last year to replace longtime District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau. Gov. Paul LePage appointed Rushlau to the District Court bench.

Irving won with 55.4 percent of the vote to Liberman’s 44.6 percent with 74 of 84 precincts reporting, according to unofficial election results gathered by the Bangor Daily News.

The prosecutorial district includes Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Knox and Waldo counties.

Irving, who was admitted to the Maine bar in 2014 and has not worked as a prosecutor before, made expanding restorative justice a theme of her campaign.

She said last month that although she has not worked as a prosecutor, she is a good fighter. That was borne out by her success at getting campaign donations, she said.

According to campaign finance reports from the Maine Ethics Commission, Irving had received just shy of $50,000 in campaign contributions by mid-October. Liberman, in contrast, had raised roughly $7,600.

“The reason we have so much money is I made that happen,” she said last month. “And as it moved along, people really did get excited. The principle of getting restorative justice in all four counties has really fired up [people].”

In western Maine, suspended lawyer Seth Carey, a Republican, proved not to be much of a threat to incumbent prosecutor Andrew Robinson, a Democrat. Robinson easily won re-election in Oxford, Franklin and Androscoggin counties, with 57.8 percent of the vote to Carey’s 42.2 percent with 74 of 82 precincts reporting results to the BDN.

A hearing to determine whether Carey will be disbarred or face other punishment for alleged sexual assault is scheduled Nov. 14 before Maine Superior Court Justice Thomas Warren. Carey’s possible election raised questions about his ability to serve since Maine law requires that every district attorney be licensed to practice.

Efforts to reach Carey were unsuccessful, as the email address he provided the Maine Ethics Commission when he registered as a candidate is no longer active. Carey told the Lewiston Sun Journal on Tuesday that he would turn his “focus on finding justice.” He maintains the accusations against him are false.

In Penobscot and Piscataquis counties, Republican Marianne Lynch beat Democrat Joseph Belisle by a vote of 57.2 percent to 42.8 percent with 77of 83 precincts reporting. Lynch, who currently serves as deputy district attorney, was the chosen successor of longtime District Attorney R. Christopher Almy, a Democrat. He was first elected in 1986.

In March, Almy turned in his nomination papers to run for re-election but withdrew them when he found out Lynch was running. He failed to tell local or state party officials that he’d withdrawn so that a Democrat could file to run in his place.

Belisle ran in the June primary as a write-in candidate and earned many more votes than the required 300 to get his name on the ballot as the Democratic candidate.

He said early Wednesday in an email that he will work with his opponent to address what both believe are the underlying causes of crime in both counties.

“I will continue to advocate for and work on addressing the root causes of crime and getting people appropriate treatment to help them become healthy and productive members of society,” he said. “I believe that Marianne wants the same and I look forward to continuing to work with her on these issues.”

Lynch said early Wednesday that she is “cautiously optimistic” that she had won the race based on unofficial returns but declined to comment further.

After a crowded primary slate in Cumberland County, the contest to run the state’s busiest prosecutor’s office wound up with just one candidate still in the race on Election Day. Assistant District Attorney Jonathan Sahrbeck, an independent, will replace longtime District Attorney Stephanie Anderson, a Republican, who is retiring.

Democrat Jon Gale bowed out of the race last week, less than 12 hours after his party publicly called on him to withdraw and the Bangor Daily News reported three former colleagues said he’d left a private-sector job in 2004 amid a human resources investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct.

Republican Randall Bates withdrew from the race shortly after the primary.

Sahrbeck said in an email early Wednesday morning the he is honored to be elected to the position. He pledged to work effectively with law enforcement and to speak for victims.

“My campaign for district attorney was about needing an experienced, dedicated, and independent prosecutor to address the public safety needs we have in our county, especially the opioid epidemic and domestic violence,” he said.

Bates’ and Gale’s names remained on the ballot, and the votes they received were to be counted as blanks, but they were reported to the BDN. Despite dropping out, Gale garnered 44.8 percent of the vote to Sahrbeck’s 39.4 percent and Bates’ 15.8 percent with 56 of the 64 precincts reporting.

Republican Matthew Foster was re-elected in Hancock and Washington counties. He beat challenger Steven Juskewitch 54.2 percent to 45.8 percent with 74 out of 86 precincts reporting. Juskewitch has run for the position and lost every four years since 2002, sometimes as a Democrat, sometimes as a Republican and this year as an independent.

Maeghan Maloney, a Democrat, easily won re-election against Republican Kevin Sullivan to serve as district attorney for Kennebec and Somerset counties. Maloney claimed 54.7 percent of the vote to Sullivan’s 45.3 percent with 68 of 72 precincts reporting.

In York County, incumbent Kathryn Slattery, a Democrat, won re-election against independent Bernard Broder III. She had 52.6 percent of the vote to 47.4 percent for Broder in unofficial returns with 37 of 39 precincts reporting.

Aroostook County District Attorney Todd Collins, a Democrat, ran unopposed for re-election. He garnered 17,586 votes with 62 of 72 precincts reporting.


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