Maine Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant, who has held the post since 2010 and presided over the party during Tuesday’s disastrous losses to Republicans, said Thursday he would not seek re-election.

Other party leaders say Democrats need to go through a period of self-examination and look for ways to broaden the Democratic message, but they cautioned against abandoning the party’s core values.

Grant said in an interview that he decided before the election not to seek another term as chairman.

“It’s the right time to pass the baton, although it’s more bittersweet today because of the results,” he said.

Tuesday’s election was not kind to Democrats, both in Maine and across the country.

Mike Michaud, a former six-term congressman, lost the governor’s race to incumbent Gov. Paul LePage by a margin that took Democrats by surprise. The party also lost control of the Maine Senate and saw its majority in the Maine House shrink from 31 to 11. In the 2nd Congressional District, Republican Bruce Poliquin defeated Democratic state Sen. Emily Cain.

Grant acknowledged that this year’s election was a sharp departure from 2012, when Democrats helped re-elect President Obama and also seized control of the Maine Legislature.

“I think anytime you lose, you should look inward and do some soul-searching,” he said. “But I don’t think anyone saw this Republican wave coming.”

The Maine Democratic Party will elect a new party chair at a meeting Nov. 16.

Phil Bartlett, a former four-term state senator from Gorham and current National Democratic Committeeman, said he will seek the chairmanship.

“Some folks had approached me some time ago and encouraged me to consider running after Ben’s term ended,” Bartlett said Thursday. “When Ben made his decision not to run, it seemed like a good time to step up and build on work that he’s done.”

The past four years have seen big swings for Democrats in Maine, particularly in the Legislature. Before 2010, when LePage first took office, the State House had been largely controlled by Democrats for nearly 40 years.

Assessing the governor’s race, Grant said Democrats may have underestimated LePage’s appeal during his re-election bid.

“We thought he would be more unpopular,” Grant said. “But I tip my hat to him and (Maine Republican Party Chairman) Rick Bennett.”

Bartlett said Democratic Party leaders will take a closer look at the results from this week to find out where their message failed.

“There is no question we need to work to broaden the base, not only engage our base supporters but build that base over time,” he said.

Former two-term Gov. John Baldacci, now a lobbyist with the Pierce Atwood law firm in Portland, said 2014 was a bad year for Democrats everywhere. He pointed to the governor’s race in Maryland, where a Republican won in a heavily Democratic state.

He said the best thing Maine Democrats can do is to find common ground on some issue without compromising core Democratic principles.

“We shouldn’t overreact to these results, but we need to do a better job articulating issues that resonate with voters,” Baldacci said.

He also said Democrats need to be careful about going “too far to the left,” and also about appealing only to voters in southern Maine.

As for whether there will be other changes within the Maine Democratic Party, Grant said it’s possible, but he also thinks the organization is in good shape under Executive Director Mary Erin Casale.

“Our party is better because of Ben Grant’s leadership,” Casale said. “He has made a significant and long-lasting impact on politics in Maine. Ben has always been focused and committed to electing Democratic leaders and supporting thoughtful, progressive policies that will build our middle class, strengthen equality and protect Maine workers.”

Party chairmen, who are elected by members of the state committee, often become the de facto faces of the party and also the primary candidate recruiters.

Grant assumed a higher profile in his four years than his predecessor, John Knutson, and spent much of the past four years directing criticism at LePage.

Grant, 37, previously worked as an aide to a pair of state Senate presidents, Beth Edmonds and Beverly Daggett. He also served as director of the Maine Senate Democratic Campaign Committee in 2004.

He is an attorney with McTeague Higbee in Topsham, and said his clients will be happy to see him step down.

“It means I’ll return their calls the same day instead of three days later,” he said.

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