The decision by Gov.-elect Paul LePage’s Republican administration to hire his 22-year-old daughter drew harsh criticism Thursday from Maine Democrats.

Lauren LePage will work as an assistant to LePage’s chief of staff, John McGough, and be paid about $41,000 a year.

Executive director Mary Erin Casale of the Maine Democratic Party called the hiring a “brazen display of political nepotism.” She questioned who else was considered for the position and how it was advertised.

LePage officials said Lauren LePage’s position is entry level and commensurate with her experience, work history and education. Officials say state rules about hiring relatives don’t apply to elected or constitutional officers.

Sandy Maisel, a political scientist at Colby College in Waterville, said it may be legal in Maine, but it is illegal in most states.

He said nepotism was once common in the U.S. House of Representatives, but it is no longer allowed.

“It almost takes your breath away that (LePage) doesn’t understand the problem here,” Maisel said.

He said the hiring raises ethical questions.

“Special assistant to the chief of staff, who is a crony? It is really mind-boggling,” Maisel said.

LePage spokesman Dan Demeritt defended the hiring. He said Lauren LePage was a valuable member of the campaign and the transition team. She worked on policy issues during the campaign and is managing policy and constituents’ concerns during the transition.

Demeritt said her salary will be in the same range as the compensation for people in similar positions in the Baldacci administration.

Baldacci spokesman David Farmer has said the executive assistant positions in the governor’s office now have annual salaries of $30,000 to $60,000.

Lauren LePage graduated in August from Florida State University in Tallahassee, where she was a biology major.

Her work experience, outside of her father’s campaign, includes several stints as a cashier and retail clerk for Marden’s Surplus and Salvage — where her father is general manager — a teaching assistant job at college, and serving food at Weathervane Seafood Restaurants, according to her resume.

According to the latest data from the Maine Department of Labor, the average salary is $34,324 for a local government worker, $43,260 for a state government worker and $62,934 for a federal government worker.

Staff Writer Beth Quimby contributed to this report.