AUGUSTA – Portland Democratic state Sen. Justin Alfond is likely to become president of the Maine Senate, while a three-way race for House speaker is shaping up as newly elected Democrats make their leadership choices.
This much is clear: The cast of leaders is going to have a much different look in the 2013-14 session due to voters’ choices in last week’s elections, which turned a Democratic minority into the ruling party.
With the Democratic majority, some of the new leadership team is clear already. And signs of the impending changes are appearing in the State House, where partisan staffs are packing up their offices for moves to different quarters due to the new tilt in the balance of power.
Unofficial figures show the Democrats with a 19-15 edge in the Maine Senate, where one independent was elected. The Maine House breakdown appeared to be 87-60 and four independents.
However, seven recounts had formally been requested by the close of business Friday, and election officials may be asked to schedule more.
Alfond, who is beginning his third term after serving as assistant Senate minority leader, faces no challenge within his party for president, virtually assuring him of the job. When the caucus votes Tuesday, it also expected to elect third-term state Sens. Seth Goodall of Richmond and Troy Jackson of Allagash, who are unopposed for majority and assistant majority leaders, respectively.
The new Republican minority in the Senate has started things off already by holding its caucus to elect floor leaders Friday, unanimously electing state Sen. Mike Thibodeau of Winterport as minority leader and state Sen. Roger Katz of Augusta as assistant minority leader.
House Republicans will elect their leaders Wednesday. Two candidates have lined up for the minority leader’s post: state Reps. Paul Davis of Sangerville, who has served six Senate and House terms, and ran for House speaker two years ago, and Ken Fredette of Newport, who’s starting his second term.
Davis, a former state Senate leader, said he’s taking nothing for granted.
“I’ve got an idea it’ll be two or three votes either way,” said Davis, who like other leadership candidates, has worked for multiple campaigns of Republican candidates leading up to elections.
Four Republicans were reported to be running for assistant floor leader, including state Reps. Deborah Sanderson of Chelsea, Alex Willette of Mapleton, and Jeff Timberlake of Turner. Brian Duprey of Hampden, a former legislator who is returning to the House, is the fourth candidate.
On the Democratic side, the newly elected House members plan to caucus Tuesday. The Democrats’ race for House speaker includes state Rep. Terry Hayes of Buckfield, the current assistant Democratic leader; fourth-term state Rep. Michael Carey of Lewiston, and state Rep. Mark Eves of North Berwick, who’s starting his third term.
Democrats will choose between state Reps. Seth Berry of Bowdoinham and Mark Dion of Portland for majority leader. The race for assistant Democratic leader features state Reps. Jeff McCabe of Skowhegan, Anne Graham of North Yarmouth and James Dill of Old Town. The lists could change before the actual votes if some candidates drop out.
The internal party jockeying sets the scene for nominations and final votes for the Senate president and House speaker after the 126th Legislature is sworn in Dec. 5.
It also comes as the fields of candidates for secretary of state, treasurer, attorney general and auditor, who will also be elected on opening day, fill out.