AUGUSTA – In 2005 and 2006, John Richardson presided over the House of Representatives while Democrats held a razor-thin majority.

Bob Duplessie of Westbrook worked with Richardson then as assistant majority leader.

“John was very good at getting people to come to a common goal,” said Duplessie, who now works for the state Department of Conservation. “He was able to bring parties together. He had a real knack for that.”

Richardson, 52, was first elected to the House in 1998 after defeating an incumbent Republican, with 51 percent of the vote. He went on to serve eight years, the last two as speaker.

Despite his decision Monday to drop out of the race for governor, those who know him say it may not end Richardson’s political career.

“He’s certainly a tenacious campaigner,” said House Minority Leader Josh Tardy, R-Newport, who served with Richardson. “He’s very bright. He’s got the interest of the state of Maine in mind. I don’t think he should foreclose as an option a run for office in the future.”

As part of his campaign for governor, Richardson pointed to an event when he was 19 that drove him to pursue a career in public service.

Richardson was a volunteer for the Riverdale Heights Volunteer Fire Department in Maryland, where his dad was chief, when he was badly burned in a fire.

“We were told people were trapped,” Richardson said in a campaign video posted on his website. “I began to do search and rescue and I couldn’t find anyone.”

When he left the building, he told his father he had been burned.

He was injured so badly that he was hospitalized for four months and needed seven surgeries.

“It was here that he benefited from the social safety net and realized that sometimes, when people get knocked down, they need help getting back up on their feet,” it says in the biographical section of his campaign website.

After that, Richardson graduated from the University of Maryland and got a job for an accounting practice. In 1989, he graduated from Creighton University School of Law.

Richardson and his wife, Dr. Stephanie Grohs, moved to Brunswick to settle and raise a family.

Richardson joined the Portland law firm of Troubh, Heisler and Piampiano and, in 1998, won his race for the House.

He served on the Banking and Insurance Committee, and the Business, Research and Economic Development Committee before he became majority leader in 2003. Two years later, he was selected by fellow lawmakers as speaker.

Ross Paradis, a former Democratic representative from Frenchville who served with Richardson, said he gathered about 300 Clean Election contributions to help with the campaign.

He said he didn’t gather checks in the Fort Kent area, which is where some problems were uncovered.

“We’re really saddened by the whole thing,” he said. “John was the best candidate in the Democratic field, if not the whole field.”

After his time as speaker, Richardson was appointed in 2007 by Gov. John Baldacci as commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development.

He left that post in November 2009 to run for governor.

 

MaineToday Media State House Reporter Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at: [email protected]