December 7, 2012

Maine Democrats likely to retake four top positions

Matthew Dunlap, Janet Mills and Neria Douglass are virtual locks to become the state's constitutional officers.

Staff video by Andy Molloy

By MICHAEL SHEPHERD Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — Two constitutional officers who lost their jobs after Republicans took control of the Legislature in 2010 are making comebacks.

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Janet Mills, left, and William Schneider

Staff File Photos

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Former Maine Attorney General Janet Mills of Farmington and former secretary of state Matthew Dunlap of Old Town, are poised to win back their positions for 2013 and 2014 after they got the backing of a majority of Democratic legislators in a party caucus Tuesday at the State House.

State Auditor Neria Douglass of Auburn was picked as the Democrats' nominee for state treasurer, and Pola Buckley of Hallowell was picked by party legislators to replace Douglass as auditor.

The treasuer is a constitutional officer position. The auditor is technically not a constitutional officer, but is often referred to as one.

The four nominees are virtual locks to win legislature-wide elections Wednesday, as Democrats hold advantages over Republicans in the Maine Senate and House of Representatives. Republicans are contesting three of the four races.

Mills was attorney general from early 2009 to early 2011, when Republicans elected in Nov. 2010 took control of the Legislature. She defeated Yarmouth trial lawyer Timothy Shannon, who said in his pre-vote speech Tuesday that he logged 25,000 miles in campaigning for the position.

In her speech to legislators, Mills said she would work to fight national trade policies that hurt Maine manufacturing, implement the Affordable Care Act and strengthen publicly funded election laws.

"You know I will always be here and have your back because I've walked in your shoes," Mills said, referencing her history as a legislator. "We will move the state forward and make it a place where all people, young and old, are treated equally."

Dunlap was secretary of state from early 2005 to early 2011. He beat outgoing Rep. Brian Bolduc of Auburn, who has served four legislative terms since 1997.

"The people of Maine are resourceful and courageous. They are the greatest people in the world," Dunlap said in his speech. "They don't need us to solve all their problems. They just need a hand up."

Douglass, the treasurer nominee who has been state auditor since 2005, had the strongest words of any nominee for LePage. She hit the governor for his reluctance to sell bonds issued by voters, saying bond issuance should be his "ministerial duty" and that he has provided legislators fiscal information "with a lot of spin."

"You have many diverse talents and bring an incredible wealth of knowledge to building our economy, growing new jobs, protecting our environment, delivering better health care and improving education," Douglass told Democrats in her speech. "I want to work with you for the causes you believe in."

Democrats chose Pola Buckley of Hallowell to replace Douglass as state auditor. Buckley is currently a principal auditor in the state auditor's office, which verifies state financial statements and expenditures of federal programs.

Buckley beat out fellow Democrat Gail Chase of Unity, who was state auditor from 1997 to 2005 and has been a legislator.

Republicans did not nominate anyone for the auditor position Tuesday, according to David Sorensen, spokesman for the Maine House Republicans. But they did choose candidates for the other offices, despite having no chance of winning.

In Republicans' Tuesday caucus, party legislators put State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin and Attorney General William Schneider back up for their spots. Outgoing state Sen. Debra Plowman of Hampden was picked to run against Dunlap, Sorensen said.

"I so value that position of state treasurer," Poliquin said Tuesday. "I gladly accepted the nomination and do so with a lot of humility."

Rep. Michael Thibodeau, R-Winterport, an incoming senator and senate Republican leader, said his party's nominations were in keeping with tradition. Democrats also put up unsuccessful nominees for constitutional officers in 2010.

"They're all people who are highly qualified for the offices," Thibodeau said. "If Democrats want to look at qualifications they might to want to demonstrate true bipartisanship and vote for our nominees."

Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Michael Shepherd can be contacted at 791-5632 or at:

mshepherd@mainetoday.com


Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to the number of constitutional officers in Maine. The story has been changed to reflect the accurate number.

 

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