Consumer-owned utility champion Grohoski faces special election Tuesday

Senate Democrats are hoping to hold onto a seat in a swing district in Hancock County where Democratic Rep. Nicole Grohoski and Republican Brian Langley are vying in a special election on June 14.

Grohoski is finishing her second term in the Maine House and has become a legislative champion of a ballot initiative to replace Central Maine Power and Versant with a consumer-owned utility. She is seeking election in Maine Senate District 7, which has swung between Democrat and Republican control over the past decade.

In January, Democratic Sen. Louis Luchini left the seat, which he has held since 2018, to take a position at the US Small Business Administration. Grohoski and Langley are competing to take over the seat for the remainder of his term that ends in November, when they will compete again for a full, two-year term.

Grohoski’s campaign website lists affordable health care, lower property taxes, and environmental protections as her top priorities. She says she wants to better fund public schools, increase teacher pay, and support career and technical education, as well as grow the state’s green energy economy.

As a member of the legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee, she has also supported universal broadband and internet privacy, while opposing the CMP corridor. Last year, 59% of Mainers voted to block the 145-mile transmission corridor by CMP affiliate New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) that would deliver hydro-electric power from Quebec to Massachusetts.

But Grohoski, a cartographer and GIS specialist, is perhaps most well known in the legislature for being a co-sponsor of a bill that would have put a consumer-owned utility, the proposed Pine Tree Power Company, on the November 2021 ballot. The measure would create a statewide nonprofit electric utility run by board members elected by the public.

The measure was vetoed by Gov. Janet Mills, but Grohoski and lead sponsor Rep. Seth Berry (D-Bowdoinham) are now active with Our Power, an organization leading a grassroots coalition to take the consumer-owned utility to ballot in 2023.

“Maine people deserve the right to decide our energy future,” Grohoski wrote in her local newspaper, the Ellsworth American, last year. “Maine’s profit-driven utilities are failing us. Nationally, consumer-driven utilities are twice as reliable as profit-driven utilities. It’s time for a change.”

Grohoski is seen as more progressive than her potential predecessor, who compiled a more conservative voting record than most other Democrats during his 12 years in the legislature.

During last legislative session, for example, Luchini opposed some progressive priorities such as a bill to divest the state pension fund from fossil fuels, a measure to provide farmworkers with the same collective bargaining rights as other workers, legislation to decriminalize possession of small amounts of drugs, and a bill to close the state’s last youth prison.

Grohosky’s opponent, Langley, a former school teacher who owns the Union River Lobster Pot Restaurant in Ellsworth, held the Senate seat before Luchini. He could not seek re-election in 2018 due to term limits.

While in the legislature from 2010 to 2018, Langley pushed for passage of legislation for “Innovative School Districts” and helped pass a law in 2011 allowing charter schools to operate in Maine.

Democrats and Republicans have put more than $100,000 into the race. The Maine Democratic Party has spent more than $65,000 to support Grohoski, while the Maine Republican Party has put more than $30,000 behind Langley.

The Maine GOP and the Maine Senate Republican Majority PAC have sent out mailers attacking Grohoski for a 2019 carbon tax bill that she voted to kill in committee despite initially backing it.

“It’s interesting to me that because we have passed literally no taxes and in fact we’ve been focused on tax relief, the opposition is now fabricating taxes to fit into a narrative,” Grohoski told the Bangor Daily News

Photo of Rep. Nicole Grohoski talking with voters via her campaign website.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.