AUGUSTA — After more than a year of searching for a full-time job, state Sen. Larry Bliss, D-South Portland, has found one – in California.

Bliss announced to fellow Senate Democrats on Tuesday morning that he is resigning his part-time job – that of state senator – to become an administrator at California State University-East Bay, outside San Francisco. He met with Gov. Paul LePage to submit his resignation later in the afternoon.

“I love that Maine has a citizen Legislature, that ‘Joe Anybody’ can run for office and we don’t have professional, full-time politicians,” Bliss said. “But it’s very difficult for somebody to live on $10,000 or $11,000 a year, and we’ve just reached the point where in my family we can’t do it anymore.”

Bliss had been director of the career center at the University of Southern Maine but lost his job when the program was cut.

“I’m sorry to leave, but that’s what’s happening,” said Bliss, who has served more than 10 years in the Maine Legislature. “My last day as a senator will be Friday, April 15.”

Bliss was re-elected in November, defeating Republican Joe Palmieri of South Portland by just 75 votes out of more than 18,000 cast. His Senate district is made up of Cape Elizabeth, South Portland and part of Scarborough.

Colleagues said they will miss him.

“Sen. Bliss’ retirement is a huge loss for the residents of Senate District 7,” said Assistant Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond, D-Portland. “His work has been exemplary for his nine-plus years here, and it’s going to be a tough loss for Senate Democrats.”

Minority Leader Barry Hobbins, D-Saco, said Bliss’ institutional memory will be hard to replace.

The Maine Senate currently has 20 Republicans, 14 Democrats and one unenrolled member.

LePage will schedule a special election to fill Bliss’ seat.

“It will be a seat that’s challenged by both parties,” Hobbins said.

At least one House Democratic lawmaker says she is interested in running.

“I would love to serve in the Maine Senate and it’s going to be difficult to fill the shoes of Sen. Bliss, but I am excited about the opportunity,” said state Rep. Cynthia Dill, D-Cape Elizabeth.

Local party caucuses select candidates and Dill said she would reconsider if another Democrat emerged whom she thought was more qualified or had a better chance of winning.

Palmieri could not be reached for comment.

 

MaineToday Media State House Writer Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at: [email protected]