November 14, 2012

Democratic State House leaders ready to face LePage

Fresh from reclaiming their majorities, Democrats choose Mark Eves of North Berwick as speaker of the House and Justin Alfond to preside over the Senate.

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Justin Alfond

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Mark Eves

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ABOUT THE SENATE PRESIDENT

Justin Alfond, 37, of Portland

• Slated to become the youngest Senate president since 36-year-old Joseph Locke, a Portland Republican, was elected in 1880.

• Has been elected to three terms in the Senate.

•During his first term, served as Senate chairman of the Legislature's Education Committee. Was the ranking Democrat when Republicans took control in 2010.

• Became the assistant minority leader in his second term.

• Grew up in Dexter and Waterville and earned a degree in business administration from Tulane University.

• Founded Maine chapter of the League of Young Voters.

• Grandson of the late Harold Alfond. He's invested in Portland real estate projects and owns Bayside Bowl.

• Lives on Munjoy Hill in Portland with his wife, Rachael, his 1-year-old son, Jacoby, and their dog, Tipitina.

ABOUT THE HOUSE SPEAKER

Mark Eves, 35, of North Berwick

• Elected to third term in the Legislature. Has been the House lead Democrat on Health and Human Services Committee.

• Business development director at Sweetser since 2011.

• Owns private family therapist practice in Sanford, which he started in 2008.

• Maine Association of Marriage and Family Therapists Board of Directors 2007-11.

• Lives in North Berwick with his wife, Laura, and three young children.

"He uses the statement 'putting students first,'" Alfond said. "I also use that same statement. How we get to putting students first, we need to talk about that, but I look forward to that conversation."

Alfond suggested that Democrats may not be as quick to blast the governor in public as they did when they were in the minority.

"We're in a different position now and I think we'll be more judicious with our public criticism," he said.

Nonetheless, it would appear that Alfond and LePage are destined to collide again, particularly on education policy.

Last week, during an event at York County Community College, LePage promised to keep pushing his education proposals regardless of which party controls the Legislature.

"I'm going to continue with the barrage for the next two years," he said.

The governor also took heat from the Maine Education Association, the state's teachers union, after LePage said, "... overall if you want a good education Maine, go to a private school. If you can't afford it, tough luck."

In a written statement, the union called LePage's statement "a bald faced lie" that discredited Maine's public schools.

The response highlighted a dynamic that may make compromise between LePage and Democrats in the Legislature difficult.

Additionally, the Maine teachers union, backed by the National Education Association and its political action committee, spent heavily on legislative races that helped Democrats win their majorities.

Democrats are slated to have a 89-58 advantage in the 151-member House, with four unenrolled members. Democrats hold a 19-15 edge in the 35-member Senate, with one independent member.

The Secretary of State's Office announced Tuesday that there will be 10 recounts in tight legislative races, including nine House races. The recounts will not affect the balance of the Senate and House.

Also Tuesday, House Democrats selected Rep. Seth Berry of Bowdoinham as their majority leader.

In the Senate, Sen. Seth Goodall of Richmond will become the majority leader, while Sen. Troy Jackson of Allagash was selected Tuesday as the majority whip.

House Republicans will caucus Wednesday to pick their leaders. Current House Speaker Robert Nutting of Oakland, Paul Davis of Sangerville and Ken Fredette of Newport are all running for minority leader.

Republican senators have already selected their minority leader, Sen. Michael Thibodeau of Winterport. Sen. Roger Katz of Augusta will be the assistant minority leader.

 

Staff Writer Steve Mistler can be reached at 791-6345 or at: smistler@pressherald.com

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