Maine’s busiest prosecutors offices to get new district attorneys
Two of the state’s busiest prosecutorial districts will have new district attorneys in November after long-serving chief prosecutors decided not to seek re-election.
Both Cumberland County District Attorney Stephanie Anderson, a Republican, and Penobscot and Piscataquis County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy, a Democrat, will step aside this winter.
Anderson, a Republican, was first elected in 1991. Almy, a Democrat, has been the head prosecutor in those counties for 33 years, longer than any current district attorney.
District attorney races will be held in November in the state’s eight prosecutorial districts. Prosecutors are elected every four years.
In Cumberland County, Jon C. Gale, a criminal defense attorney in Portland, beat out two rivals, N. Seth Levy of Portland and Frayla Tarpinian of Windham, to win the Democratic primary last month. Gale won with 11,849 votes to Levy’s 10,204 and Tarpinian’s 10,688.
Republican Randall J. Bates of Yarmouth and independent Jonathan T. Sahrbeck of Cape Elizabeth, who is an assistant district attorney under Anderson, also will be on the ballot.
Gale, who has never run for office before, said there is strong momentum both nationally and locally for change in the criminal justice system.
“The changes people are seeking — addressing economic and racial disparity in sentencing, encouraging treatment and diversion away from convictions, and reducing crime by addressing causes rather than simply throwing people in jail — that’s been my fight for years as a defense attorney,” he said in an email.
Sahrbeck, who heads the human trafficking unit under Anderson, is the only candidate in the race who currently is working as a prosecutor. Sahrbeck said in an email that he wants to build on his boss’ successes while seeking improvements.
“I will create more visibility as district attorney, actively implementing and participating in programs to educate the public about the dangers facing our community,” he said. “I view my campaign as a tremendous opportunity to start these conversations and hear directly from residents with their own ideas, thoughts and concerns. Together, we can keep Cumberland County safe.”
Bates did not immediately return a request for comment. The Portland Phoenix reported in May after a candidates forum that Bates favored a “balanced” prosecution. He also said that he favored treatment and rehabilitation after convictions including job training and education.
In Penobscot and Piscatquis counties, Bangor attorney Joseph Belisle won the Democratic primary as a write-in candidate with 489 votes. He needed 300 votes to get his name on the ballot.
Belisle decided to run after Almy withdrew his nomination papers two days before the deadline without telling party officials of his decision. Marianne Lynch of Bangor, who works for Almy, was unopposed in the Republican primary.
Lynch said recently that the biggest issues confronting and overwhelming the criminal justice system are the opioid epidemic, domestic violence and the serious dangers of impaired driving.
“While supporting treatment, those that come into our counties to sell and distribute drugs should be given no quarter and zealously prosecuted,” she said. “Domestic violence victims require our attention and support. These crimes disproportionately target women and children in our community. Impaired drivers are a huge public safety risk, especially when offenders combine cocktails of drugs and alcohol. I will promote the active prosecution of impaired drivers.”
Belisle said that he would work to reduce “the reliance of cash bail for nonviolent offenders to reduce jail overcrowding.” He also wants to rely more on diversion programs and treatment rather than jail for those who need it.
“I will rely on diversion and rehabilitation to address chronic substance abuse and mental health issues, which remain the root causes of much of the crime in our communities,” he said. “I will encourage increased use of available services, including our drug court, detox facilities and counseling programs. I would look to address these issues as soon as they are identified, attempting to treat them before they spiral out of control and result in even more critical concerns — serious felonies and overdoses.”
Incumbents are on the ballot in the other six districts. Only Todd Collins, a Democrat in Aroostook County, is running unopposed.
In York County, Democrat Kathryn Slattery, who is seeking her third term, will face independent Bernard J. Broder III of Sanford. There is no Republican candidate.
In the western Maine counties of Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford, Democrat Andrew Robinson of Farmington, who was first elected in 2014, will face Republican Seth Carey of Auburn.
Carey, whose law license currently is suspended, beat Alexander Reginald Willette of Lewiston by a vote of 7,029 to 4,799. Carey was listed on the ballot as S. Thomas Carey. A two-day hearing before a panel of the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar is scheduled to be held Aug. 15 and 16 at the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland concerning complaints made against Carey.
In central Maine, Democrat Maeghan Maloney of Augusta will face Republican Kevin Patrick Sullivan of Gardiner in the race for top prosecutor in Kennebec and Somerset counties. Maloney was first elected in 2012 to fulfill the unexpired term of longtime District Attorney Evert Fowle, a Democrat, who was appointed a District Court judge. Maloney and Sullivan faced off four years ago.
In the coastal counties of Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Knox and Waldo, Jonathan Liberman, a Republican, will run for the job he was appointed to last year.
Liberman got the job after his boss, Geoffrey Rushlau, was appointed to the District Court bench. Natasha Irving of Waldoboro is the Democrat seeking to replace Liberman.
Down East, Republican Matthew Foster is seeking a second term as district attorney in Hancock and Washington counties. He won’t face a Democratic opponent but will face opposition from independent candidate Steven A. Juskewitch of Dedham. Juskewitch has run and lost three times in 2002, 2006 and 2010.