Politics

November 16, 2012

Excitement, hope for newly elected Maine lawmakers

First-time state legislators gather for orientation in Augusta as they prepare to take their seats Dec. 5.

The Associated Press

AUGUSTA – A little more than three decades ago, Tim Marks was an 18-year-old doorkeeper to the Maine Senate who ended up losing his job because of a change in party rule. Now he's back -- as the state representative-elect from Pittston.

Justin Chenette
click image to enlarge

State Rep.-elect Justin Chenette, D-Saco, right, chats with a colleague during freshman orientation Thursday at the State House. Chenette, 21, is the Legislature’s youngest member.

Photos by Robert F. Bukaty/The Associated Press

Mark Eves
click image to enlarge

Newly elected Speaker of the House Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, tries out the gavel Thursday at the State House. “We have a great caucus with great potential,” he said.

Marks, a Democrat, was among the dozens of newly elected, first-time legislators who gathered Thursday at the State House for orientation. The lawmakers-to-be heard lectures on procedures for filing bills, the work of committees, support services and their pay.

"They're excited," said Speaker-to-be Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, who is beginning his third term in the House. "We have a great caucus with great potential: doctors, farmers, teachers, small-business owners."

And there's Marks.

After working as Senate doorkeeper, he was ushered out the door when Democrats took over the Senate from Republicans in 1982. He wound up with a job as a legislative document clerk, often thinking about how he would like to be among those elected to serve, rather than serving the elected.

Marks, who switched to the Democratic Party, finished college and retired after a career as a state police trooper.

"So this has been on my bucket list for a very long time," said Marks, who's now 52. "It's awesome ... very cool."

As a kid growing up in Maine's capital, Rep.-elect Matt Pouliot also daydreamed about winning a legislative seat. The freshman Republican representing north Augusta recalls visiting the State House as a fifth-grader and eating candy while sitting on the portico.

"I'm going to work in this building someday, I thought," Pouliot said.

Another Republican from Augusta, Rep.-elect Corey Wilson, grew up in Fairfield and never set foot in the State House until about a year ago, when he got interested in running for the House. Now, with the election over, he wants to put political partisanship aside and get to work. That sentiment was echoed Thursday by other new lawmakers, as well as their leaders.

"Regardless of whether you're in the minority or majority, it's important to get together and get things done," Wilson said.

Rep.-elect Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, said her only experience in the State House had been shadowing members to see what they do.

"I feel an incredible amount of hope for the next two years," said Gideon, who has served on the Freeport Town Council.

Sen.-elect Colleen Lachowicz, D-Waterville, who prevailed in a campaign that drew national media attention, is putting the partisanship aside as she focuses on the six-month session that formally begins Dec. 5 with the swearing-in of new lawmakers.

During the campaign, Republicans set up a website criticizing her for playing the online role-playing game World of Warcraft.

"I'm looking forward to getting to work for the people of my district," she said.

Lachowicz, who has been a social worker for 25 years, said a priority for her will be access to health care.

Of the 151 House seats, about 55 will be held by representatives who have never held legislative office; 10 others served before the current session.

The 35-member Senate will include 17 freshmen, two of whom held Senate seats in the past and seven who are moving up from the House. The numbers could change because of recounts in some races.

The Senate president-to-be, Portland Democrat Justin Alfond, said anything that gets done will have to be in partnership with Gov. Paul LePage and the Republican minority.

Alfond, who is beginning his third term, said that despite their differences, the parties have seen eye to eye on issues such as education, domestic violence and regulatory reform.

"I'm looking forward to sitting gown with the governor so we can find our common interests," Alfond said.

 

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