AUGUSTA – He thought he was going to be Senate president.

Instead, after a power-changing Maine election, Sen. Barry Hobbins, an 11-term legislative veteran, was elected by Democrats as Senate minority leader.

“The vote was pretty decisive,” said the Saco native of the Nov. 2 election. “The burden is on the Republicans to govern. We will help them to do that and we will be constructively critical when we feel that they are not going in the right direction. It is imperative that the Democratic Party doesn’t lose their heart and their soul when it comes to core-value issues.”

Hobbins has had a lengthy political career, from his first legislative term as a 21-year-old senior at the University of Maine to a failed run for Congress against then-U.S. Rep. John McKernan. When he was elected chairman of the Maine Democratic Party at age 28, he was one of the youngest state party chairmen in the country.

“I can play political hardball with the best of them, and have proven that in the past. But I can also understand when it’s time for us all to work together — and this is really that time,” Hobbins said. “I think maybe I have a little more polish than I did when I was starting out.”

During his on-again, off-again political career, Hobbins also gained experience as a political commentator on Channel 6 and wrote for the Sun Journal of Lewiston over the years. He also spent some time in Augusta as a lobbyist, working in telecommunications and as a lawyer on permitting for AT&T.

Though he led the Judiciary Committee for much of his legislative service, Hobbins more recently applied his experience in utilities to the chairmanship of the Utilities and Energy Committee during the last session.

“I think what that committee demonstrated to a lot of people about me as a person is that I am a consensus builder,” he said. “I was able to get Mike Thibodeau, who is the senator-elect, who is one of the more conservative members, and Herb Adams, who is probably one of the most liberal members, and bring them together to vote on the same piece of legislation 39 times.”

Hobbins, who will lead 14 Democrats in the Senate against 21 caucusing Republicans, said his peers chose him as a moderate face between more conservative and liberal wings of the party.

Hobbins said he is optimistic about forging a productive relationship with Republicans in the Legislature and in Gov.-elect Paul LePage’s administration.

“Politics is a lot about relationship building and building a trust, and having the same objective and commonality of purpose. And I’m taking (LePage) at his word that we have the same commonality of purpose,” he said.

MaineToday State House Writer Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:

rmetzler@mainetoday.com