PORTLAND, Maine - A former Google executive and adviser to former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is joining the race for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Susan Collins.
Biddeford native Ross LaJeunesse, a Democrat, makes it a four-way primary race with Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, activist and lobbyist Betsy Sweet, and attorney Bre Kidman.
He said that through his work with Google in China and as a Democrat in Republican Schwarzenegger's administration he learned to have conversations with people with whom he didn't agree.
"You don't change the world by talking to people who agree with you," he said Thursday. "If we are just talking to people who agree with us, then we end up in our bubble. The hard work of making change means standing across from someone who disagrees with you."
As director of international relations for Google, LaJeunesse negotiated with the Chinese government and executed Google's decision to stop censoring search results in China. Before that, LaJeunesse served in several posts in California government, capped by a stint as deputy chief of staff to Schwarzenegger.
In addition to four Democrats, there are several independents and Green Independents aiming to challenge Collins. Collins, for her part, has yet to formally announce her decision whether to seek reelection. That's expected later this fall.
LaJeunesse and his husband moved back to Maine in April.
He said he thinks the story of how his parents struggled in Biddeford to make ends meet and how they nearly lost the family home will resonate with voters in a state where economic growth and wages lag behind the rest of the region.
"We raised animals and had a huge garden. We didn't do that as hobbies," he said. "We did that because it we needed to put food on the table."