Sen. Louis Luchini, D-Ellsworth, is pictured at the Maine State House on May 21, 2015. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Hancock County state senator who has long been a key dealmaker on gambling and voting issues resigned his seat on Tuesday to take a regional post with the federal Small Business Administration.

Sen. Louis Luchini, D-Ellsworth, was in his second term as a state senator and previously served four terms in the Maine House of Representatives. His resignation is effective immediately as he took a role within the federal agency’s advocacy office. He will be serving as a small business advocate in Region 1, which covers the New England area.

His exit early in the 2022 legislative session will lead to a strange situation with a special election likely to be called in the spring to fill the seat ahead of the November election when it and all other seats will be up for election again. A Democratic state representative immediately announced plans to run for the battleground district.

Luchini is a moderate Democrat who easily won two Senate elections. A former All-American distance runner at Stanford University running out of Republican-leaning Ellsworth, he was a key dealmaker on issues facing the wide-ranging legislative committee that handles voting, gambling and liquor laws, among other things.

“Serving the people of Hancock County — the community where I grew up — over the past 12 years has been the honor of a lifetime,” Luchini said, thanking U.S. Rep. Jared Golden of Maine’s 2nd District for advocating for him to take the post.

During the pandemic, he pushed for businesses to be able to sell cocktails to-go, a provision that may become permanent under a bill he introduced this year. He has been an advocate for introducing sports betting to Maine, an effort that Gov. Janet Mills vetoed in 2020.

A different version of that measure initially passed both chambers last year, but Luchini opposed that version of the bill because he disliked an amendment that required digital betting to be tied to physical casinos. It is still awaiting final action from the Legislature.

Interest in the seat is already apparent, with Rep. Genevieve McDonald, D-Stonington, announcing her intention to run for the seat on Tuesday. State law requires the governor to call a special election if a Maine Senate vacancy occurs. The last similar example was a late March special election for a Biddeford-area seat in 2016.

Republicans will see an opportunity to win one or both of those elections as well. Their top recruit is likely former Sen. Brian Langley, R-Ellsworth, who hit his four-term limit the year Luchini won the seat and lost to the Democrat in the 2020 election.

BDN writer Michael Shepherd contributed to this report.