PORTLAND – Democrats need to do everything they can in the next two years to reclaim control of the Legislature from Republicans, says the newly elected chairman of Maine’s Democratic Party.

Benjamin K. Grant of Portland was chosen Sunday to fill the two-year position by members of the Maine Democratic State Committee.

The 33-year-old attorney, who practices labor and employment law for McTeague Higbee in Topsham, said he will make regaining control of the Legislature his top priority. To accomplish his goal, it will take a lot of hard work aimed at rebuilding the party’s grass-roots base, he said.

Grant said many Democrats were discouraged after the November election, which saw Republicans take control of both the House and Senate, but he said their mood is changing.

They realize the goal now is to limit Republican control to two years, said Grant, who vows to recruit highly motivated local candidates to challenge incumbents.

Mary Erin Casale, executive director of the Maine Democratic Party, said Grant was elected Sunday during a meeting at the University of Maine at Augusta. Grant replaces John Knutson of Brooklin, who decided not to seek re-election after serving for more than three years.

Grant will not receive a salary, instead juggling his political responsibilities with those of his full-time job. Grant is a cum laude graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. Before joining McTeague Higbee, he served as an aide to state Senate presidents Beth Edmonds and Beverly Daggett, served as director of the Maine Senate Democratic Campaign Committee in 2004, and worked on numerous political campaigns in Maine and New Hampshire.

Another priority for Grant will be to find a candidate who can compete in 2012 against incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe.

“It is critical that we have a strong Democrat running against Olympia,” he said.

Grant also said he will make sure that Democrats dig in and take a stand when Republican Gov. Paul LePage tries to promote his “right-wing agenda.”

“The message I’m going to bring is this: Dig in and get ready to work. I have a lot of expectations, but things won’t happen overnight,” he said.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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