Sen. Chloe Maxmin, D-Nobleboro, listens to proceedings in the Maine State House in Augusta on June 30, 2021. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

A Nobleboro state senator whose win over the Maine Senate’s top Republican in 2020 was held up as an example for rural progressives is not seeking a second term this fall, setting up another battleground race in Lincoln County.

Sen. Chloe Maxmin, a 29-year-old Democrat, announced last Wednesday that she decided not to run again in order to attend the University of Maine School of Law. She cited the demands of legislative life in a statement, saying she planned to start a nonprofit with her campaign manager about grassroots organizing, a topic the two are also releasing a book about.

Maxmin’s win over then-Senate Minority Leader Dana Dow, R-Waldoboro, was one of the more notable upsets of 2020. It came after Democrats spent heavily on the race in the district encompassing all of Lincoln County, plus Washington and Windsor. She was a freshman state representative at that time after winning a district previously held by a Republican.

It led to her gaining a national profile as an example of a progressive that could win in more conservative and rural districts. Lincoln County only partially fits that bill as a swing county easily won by President Joe Biden by 10 percentage points in 2020, while Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins took it by 8 points the same year.

“Everything is really divisive right now, and the need for community-based organizing is more important than ever,” Maxmin said, adding that Democrats will need to listen to voters of all affiliations and backgrounds in the rural district if they wish to hold the seat.

Her decision not to run will ensure the 2022 election will again be one to watch. Competition is already ramping up for the seat. Former Republican state Rep. Abden Simmons of Waldoboro registered for the seat in December. He won a single term representing House District 91 in 2016 before losing to Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos, I-Friendship, in 2018.

Two Democrats have registered for the seat. Maxmin has endorsed Round Pond school counselor and educator Cameron Reny, while Damariscotta lawyer David Levesque also filed to run for the seat last week.

Reny, whose husband co-owns the Renys store chain, already appears to have the backing of the Maine Senate Democrats. Her announcement was made alongside Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, Senate Majority Leader Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic, as well as Maxmin.