July 18, 2011

ON MAINE POLITICS: Special election slated

By Susan M. Cover scover@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

and Rebekah Metzler rmetzler@mainetoday.com
MaineToday Media State House Writer

The fourth special election of the 125th Legislature probably will be held in November, when voters in Senate District 20 will be asked to pick a new senator.

ON THE RADIO

Tune in to WGAN 560 AM at 8:08 a.m. today to hear Susan Cover discuss what's going on this week at the State House.

Sen. David Trahan, R-Waldoboro, announced last week that he will take over as executive director of the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine, a job that entails lobbying and will prevent him from continuing to serve as a lawmaker.

Trahan, 48, served eight years in the House and three in the Senate. He worked for years to establish the state government watchdog office -- the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability -- and recently served as co-chairman of the Legislature's Taxation Committee.

Trahan worked with the state Republican Party to repeal a Democratic tax plan last year, and he helped to craft the income tax cuts and other tax breaks that passed last month as part of the state budget.

Trahan loved being in the Legislature, but said he has had a hard time in the last year with what he sees as a change in tone. "It's become a little harsher tone than I'm used to," he said.

Trahan is one of 20 Republicans in the Senate, which also has 14 Democrats and one independent.

He fought in this session to get a constitutional amendment passed to secure a portion of Maine's sales tax for the fish and wildlife department. The measure failed by one vote to get the required two-thirds majority in the Senate.

A logger by profession, Trahan said he will leave that behind to focus on the job of leading the sportsman's alliance. "To get a job like that, for me, is a perfect fit," he said. "It's exciting."

Trahan said he will meet with the alliance's board in early August to discuss a compensation package and probably will resign from the Senate in September. A special election probably will be scheduled for November to fill the seat, which represents 21 towns in Lincoln County, two in Knox County and the Kennebec County town of Windsor.

The special election will follow three others since November.

Rep. Everett McLeod Sr., R-Lee, died in December, opening up the seat in House District 11. Rep. Beth Turner, R-Burlington, was elected to the seat in March.

Sen. Larry Bliss, D-South Portland, resigned his seat in March to take a job in California. Rep. Cynthia Dill, D-Cape Elizabeth, won the election to fill his spot. That opened up her House seat. An election for that seat is set for Aug. 16.

Casino fight

You can file this in the "inevitable" category, but a tipster reports receiving a polling call last week concerning the looming gambling referendums.

The campaigns promise to be blockbusters, with major profits at stake.

One ballot question will ask Mainers whether they want to approve a casino with slot machines and table games in Lewiston. The other will ask whether they want to approve racetrack casinos in Biddeford and Washington County.

Likely to oppose both questions are groups that recently won approval for a casino in Oxford and table games at Hollywood Slots in Bangor -- pending approval by Penobscot County voters.

The polling call seemed to be testing ways a voter would be less likely to support the ballot questions, according to the tipster.

Hollywood Slots is owned by Penn National, which has spent millions of dollars for lobbying and public campaigns in other states to expand gambling or keep out competing interests. Our tipster said the poll tested favorabilities for both Penn National and Black Bear Entertainment, which owns the Oxford casino rights.

New communications job

When Peter Rogers takes over as the head of communications for Gov. Paul LePage next week, he will play an expanded role in the executive branch of state government.

(Continued on page 2)

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