By John Gramlich, Stateline Staff Writer
As one of the first states to swear in new lawmakers after Election Day, Maine this week could start offering national observers a preview of what state government under newly empowered Republicans will look like.
Along with Wisconsin, Maine is one of two states that flipped from all-Democratic to all-Republican rule earlier this month. The transition of power is well under way. Newly elected legislators will be sworn in Wednesday (December 1) — giving the GOP its first majority in both chambers since 1974 — and Republican Governor-elect Paul LePage, a Tea Party favorite, will take the oath of office January 5, replacing term-limited Democrat John Baldacci. Maine hasn't had a Republican governor and Legislature at the same time since the 1960s.
Among the first orders of business for the new GOP legislative majority, according to The Associated Press, will be filling key statewide positions, including attorney general, treasurer and secretary of state, all three of whom are now Democrats. Maine is among a minority of states that give lawmakers the power to fill such important posts, and Republicans are likely to emerge in all three positions, given the party's 78-72 majority in the House and 20-14 advantage in the Senate (with one independent in each body).
Despite a commanding victory on Election Day, Republicans are striking a cautious — not exuberant — tone ahead of the two-year session, mindful of the economic challenges still facing Maine and the nation.
“The new Republican majority in the House and Senate is under no illusions,” Representative Robert Nutting, the presumptive speaker of the House, told the AP. “We know that all Mainers have not suddenly fallen in love with the Republican Party. We realize the voters are giving us a test run to see if our ideas can bring Maine back from its economic slump.”