Maine legislator steps down to focus on consumer-owned power effort

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Jun. 16—Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, said Thursday that he is no longer seeking re-election to the Maine House and will focus on a statewide referendum effort to create a consumer-owned utility company.

Berry, who has been a leading critic of Central Maine Power Co. and an advocate for public ownership, was seeking the Democratic nomination for the newly redistricted House District 52 seat, which includes Bowdoinham, Richmond and part of Bowdoin. Berry was not facing a Republican opponent, but Peter Lewis, of Bowdoinham, is running in the general election as an unenrolled candidate.

The Sagadahoc County Democratic Committee will need to caucus in the coming weeks to choose a new candidate and file paperwork with the secretary of state by July 25 to get a replacement candidate on the November ballot. With no Republican running in the general election, whomever is chosen will likely be seated in the next Legislature, unless someone mounts a write-in campaign.

Berry is finishing his seventh nonconsecutive term in the House. He has served on the Legislature's Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee for eight years, including six years as House chair. He is a founding co-chair of the Legislature's nonpartisan Broadband Caucus, and also has served as House majority leader.

Berry said in a statement that he is stepping away in part to focus on the Our Power initiative, which seeks to replace the state's two major, for-profit electricity companies, Central Maine Power and Versant, with Pine Tree Power Co., a privately operated, not-for-profit utility company.

Our Power is eying a November 2023 state referendum on the proposal.

"It has been my great honor to serve in Maine's citizen Legislature," Berry said in a written statement. "But as a father and longtime educator, I know we must do more and better for our children's future. ... (Our Power) demands my full attention, and I hope it invites yours too."