Two Democratic lawmakers have unenrolled from the party.

Rep. Denise Harlow of Portland and Rep. Ralph Chapman of Brooksville – two veteran lawmakers and progressive members of the Democratic caucus – both dropped their party affiliations earlier this week, according to the office of House Speaker Sara Gideon. Both lawmakers are heavily involved in environmental issues and recently split with most of their party, opposing a bipartisan bill to overhaul Maine’s metallic mining regulations.

“Obviously, this is not a decision that I have taken lightly,” said Harlow, who added that her family’s Democratic roots go back to her great-grandfather. “I have been a member of the Democratic Party for my entire adult life and have proudly represented part of Portland in the Legislature for 6 1/2 years … I continue to be aligned with the core Democratic values.”

However, Harlow said “individual thinkers are often marginalized” in the party and she remains “extremely concerned” about the influence lobbyists have in Augusta. Harlow is serving her fourth term and is prohibited under Maine’s term limits from running again in the House. While Harlow could seek a Senate seat, she said Friday she had no plans to run again.

Chapman, who is also serving his fourth term, could not be immediately reached for comment Friday.

Their decisions to unenroll reduces the narrow Democratic majority in the House but is unlikely to significantly alter the political balance because both lawmakers are considered liberal or progressive. Democrats now hold 75 seats in the House while Republicans hold 71 and independents occupy five, including Chapman and Harlow.

Gideon said she respected the pair’s decision.

“I’m disappointed that Rep. Harlow and Rep. Chapman have unenrolled from the Democratic Party, but I respect their decision and value their friendship,” Gideon, D-Freeport, said in a statement. “I have always admired their progressive values and the passion they bring to their work. Democrats will continue to staff them and our door is always open to them. I look forward to continuing to work with them on issues that matter to all of us.”

Harlow declined to go into specifics about her decision. However, she and Chapman both opposed the mining bill, arguing that it could still allow groundwater contamination and other pollution problems.

The Callahan Mine, a former open pit mine for copper and zinc that is now a Superfund site, is located in Chapman’s district.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 791-6312 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: KevinMillerPPH