2016-04-08 / Front Page

Councilor sets sights on District 28 seat

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

Less than five months after voters elected him to the town council, Chris Caiazzo has set his sight on another office: state government.

Caiazzo, a Democrat, officially announced his bid last week to unseat incumbent Republican Heather Sirocki as state representative in District 28, which includes most of non-coastal Scarborough.

“It’s really apparent certainly from my time on the school board and now council, the reps, certainly in my district, are not in touch with what the needs of the town are,” Caiazzo said Thursday, March 30.

Now in her third term, Sirocki serves on the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee and has served two terms on the Health and Human Services Committee. Although she confirmed she is running for re-election, Sirocki told the Leader she is not commenting on her next campaign until after the Legislature’s session closes later this month.

“There seems very much to be a partisan approach to decisions to the detriment of Scarborough,” said Caiazzo, who lives on Elmwood Avenue. “I am hoping to change that in November. Hopefully with a strong turnout and it being a presidential election, we’ll have pretty good chance.”

In late February, Beech Ridge Road resident Marj DeSanctis, chairman of the town’s housing alliance, announced her bid to represent District 28, but agreed to step back in favor of Caiazzo, avoiding the need for a Democratic primary.

DeSanctis said Caiazzo brings with him name recognition and two successful previous political campaigns, which puts him in a better position to accomplish the party’s ultimate goal of unseating Sirocki, who DeSanctis said is representing the interests of Gov. Paul LePage and not the residents of Scarborough.

She said it was an “amicable” yet tough decision to make.

“It was important we have the best possible campaign to unseat her and we felt that could better be done with Chris,” she said.

“Our goal as a party is to elect a representative in Scarborough that can really be effective and push our values and interests. I was approached and asked if I would do it. I thought about it long and hard and thought I could be effective in Augusta,” Caiazzo said.

His priorities include “fighting for greater state funding for local K-12 education and property tax relief for seniors and middle class families,” Caiazzo said in his campaign announcement.

If elected, Caiazzo said he would not resign from the council, at least not immediately. Legally, he said, he is allowed to serve as both a town councilor and state representative. According to the Town Charter, members of the council “shall not hold any other compensated town office or town employment except as on-call emergency personal.” The charter also bars councilors from serving as a trustee of the Scarborough Sanitary District, but makes no mention of state office, nor does the town council’s rules, policies and procedures manual.

Caiazzo said he alerted Town Manager Tom Hall and Town Council Chairman Bill Donovan about his intentions prior to officially announcing his candidacy.

“Neither one expressed concerns about me serving in both (capacities), neither did I, at least in the interim,” Caiazzo said.

To be sure, Hall asked Town Clerk Tody Justice to reach out to the Secretary of State’s office to make sure there was no issue. Hall indicated there were no statutes locally or statewide that address the matter.

“The Secretary of State’s Office has advised … that ‘there is no conflict at the state level,’” Hall wrote in an email to the Leader. “These two elected offices are not incompatible and therefore an individual duly elected to both offices could hold both positions simultaneously.”

Caiazzo said if elected, he would serve on both, at least until the town could fill the position through a regularly scheduled election, which would avoid the need to have a special election, which would cost the town money and resources.

Caiazzo said this spring his focus will be on his role as town councilor, although as a Maine Clean Elections Act candidate he will attempt to secure at least 60 $5 donations from voters in his district.

“It’s a political campaign for sure, but I am a town councilor first and foremost. We will have a very challenging budget year ahead of us, thanks in no small part to the (educational funding) shortfall. That really needs to be the focus for me right now. The campaign will ramp up after the budget process has been taken care of.”

Hall and School Superintendent George Entwistle were scheduled to unveil the municipal and school budgets Wednesday, April 6, after the Leader’s deadline.

Instead of pursuing state office, DeSanctis, an active member of the Scarborough Democratic Committee, said she is running for town council. There will be at least one seat open this fall. Jean-Marie Caterina, who was elected to council in 2013, is not seeking re-election, opting to pursue Amy Volk’s state Senate seat instead. Donovan is also up for reelection.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at news@scarboroughleader.com.

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