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Maine Voters Hand Democrats Control of State Legislature
11/07/2012   Reported By: A.J. Higgins

The dramatic resurgence of Democratic members in the Maine House and Senate represented one of the more stunning developments of yesterday's statewide election. Although recounts are highly likely in at least one or two Senate races, and possibly a dozen House races, it seems that the ultimate question will be not whether Democrats achieved majorities but instead, how large those majorities will be. There will be immediate consequences for legislative leadership and the state's three constitutional officers.  MPBN State House Bureau Chief A.J. Higgins joins us for a closer look.

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Maine Voters Hand Democrats Control of State Legis
Originally Aired: 11/7/2012 5:30 PM
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 Duration:
3:59

Tom Porter: So A.J., what happened last night?

A.J. Higgins: The stars really aligned against Republicans last night through a combination of careful targeting of seats by the Democrats, some poor policy choices by majority Republicans in the last Legislature and to a lesser extent, the level of voter dissatisfaction with GOP Gov. Paul LePage, who continues to be a polarizing figure here at the State House. Add all that stuff up and you've got the ingredients for a major Democratic rout of what will now be fondly recalled by a few as the majority party.

Tom Porter: So how much did Democrats improve their lot by?

A.J. Higgins: Quite a bit. But before I discuss that I would like to comment the efforts for my former employer, the Bangor Daily News for the outstanding effort they put in to updating and maintaining a running online tally of last night's statewide election results. Those of us who depend on those numbers would have been lost without them, and the paper just did an exemplary job. But having that said, they are not the final authority and these numbers remain unofficial until they are certified by the Secretary of State. But based on those unofficial returns, it appears that the Maine Senate that was formerly dominated by 19 Republicans, 15 Democrats and one unenrolled member have now changed. Now depending on how a couple of these races shake out, Democrats could control the Senate by 19 seats, 15 Republicans, and one unenrolled, or possibly hold 21 seats to the Republicans 13, and one unenrolled. By the way that one unenrolled members is Sen. Richard Woodbury of Yarmouth, who routinely votes with Democrats, so in that scenario they could wind up being one seat shy of a veto-proof super majority.

Tom Porter: And in the House?

A.J. Higgins: That was also a distinct surprise. I think Democrats wound up winning seats they didn't plan on, and lost some that they had counted as de facto victories. Before the election, the split in the House was 77 Republicans seats, Democrats held 70 seats, unenrolled legislators occupied two seats and there were two vacancies.  Now, and again this is also all unofficial, but a reasonable assumption at this point seems to indicate that Democrats hold 87 seats, Republicans 59, and four independent or politcially unenrolled members. That is a huge advantage for Democrats that I don't think they've seen those kinds of numbers since 1993.

Tom Porter: So what's going to happen next for lawmakers in Augusta?

A.J. Higgins: Well, for sure, there's going to be recounts in Maine. So those recounts will get scheduled, they'll probably shake out within the next four weeks.  Beyond that, we have the respective House and Senate party caucuses, and they'll meet and select leaders in the run-up to the swearing-in of the 126th Legislature on Dec. 5. In fact, Senate Republicans plan to do that Friday. Their House counterparts will meet on the 14th. Democrats in the House will meet on the 13th for leadership elections, and on Dec. 4, the Legislature's partisan caucuses will nominate a secretary of state, treasurer and attorney general. Those three constitutional officers, a new Senate president and House speaker will be elected the next day.

Tom Porter: A.J., I'm sure there's lots of memorable moments from last night, but can you choose one?

A.J. Higgins: I don't think we can close out without noting the loss of veteran Eagle Lake Democrat John L. Martin, who was handed his first defeat in Aroostook County's St. John Valley in 48 years. Some Republicans will break out the champagne and a lot of Democrats are probably in mourning, but the thing is clear is that the people of Aroostook County have lost one of most powerful legislative voices they've ever had.

Tom Porter: And with that we'll sign off. Thank you A.J.

A.J. Higgins: Thank you Tom.

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