Democrat Jonathan Fulford of Monroe announced his candidacy for Senate District 11 on December 28 in Belfast (Photo by Geir Gaseidnes)
Democrat Jonathan Fulford of Monroe announced his candidacy for Senate District 11 on December 28 in Belfast (Photo by Geir Gaseidnes)
Jonathan Fulford has officially announced his intention to run against three-term incumbent Republican Mike Thibodeau for the Senate District 11 seat, which covers the 26 towns of Waldo County. The Monroe Democrat, who owns Artisan Builders, announced his candidacy on Monday, Decmeber 28, at the site of the Belfast landfill, where the city just installed 396 solar panels. 

“We can choose to subsidize huge, multinational oil and gas corporations or we can invest in local, independent energy sources like this solar installation right here,” said Fulford. “We can choose to continue to spend large amounts of our money on oil and gas to heat our homes or we can invest in insulation and efficiency so that our homes are warmer and less expensive to heat. We can choose to give income tax cuts to the rich or we can lower property taxes for all of us.”

In 2014, Fulford lost to Thibodeau by 135 votes after running one of the most organized grassroots campaigns in the state. Waldo County is considered a swing district, with 29 percent registered Republicans, 27 percent Democrats, 38 percent unenrolled and 5 percent Green Party members. Presidential years tend to lean Democratic — President Obama won Waldo County with nearly 54 percent of the vote in 2012. Gov. LePage won the district with 48 percent of the vote in 2014.  

Thibodeau, who owns the snow-shovel factory Mount Waldo Plastics, has not officially declared his intent to run for re-election, but in recent weeks he has been presenting firefighters from every town in the district with his company’s snow shovels and posing for photo ops. He featured the shovels prominently in his 2014 campaign with the slogan, “We can dig our way out!”

A high-profile feud between Thibodeau and Gov. LePage could complicate the race. Last spring, LePage vowed to campaign against any legislator who defied him after Thibodeau came out against LePage’s tax plan. The governor’s daughter Lauren LePage sent out a series of robocalls to the district accusing the Senate president of conspiring with Democrats to dole out welfare to “illegal aliens.” The governor also implied that the Senate president owed his 2014 win to   LePage. “I will say this: I helped a lot of people in the Senate get elected,” LePage told WGAN radio on June 4. “I will just say that. My coattails were pretty well stomped on.” 

While the feud may endear the conservative lawmaker with some moderate voters, rumors have swirled about whether LePage will encourage a right-wing “Tea Party” candidate to challenge Thibodeau in the Republican primary. Many have speculated that former Waldo County Republican Senator Carol Weston is weighing a run. Weston, who was Thibodeau’s campaign treasurer in 2010, told The Free Press last month that she has “no plans to run,” but would not rule it out.