AUGUSTA — Seven months ago, Eric Brakey surprised many in Maine politics when he won a state Senate seat representing Androscoggin County by nearly 20 percentage points over a well-known incumbent.

He was just 26, had no legislative experience and his political coming out in Maine was only two years earlier, leading a contingent of Ron Paul supporters that unexpectedly took over the Maine Republican State Convention and exposed a fracture in the party.

The unwritten rule in politics for freshman legislators is to watch, learn and defer in their first term, but Brakey has made an impact right out of the gate.

Among the 28 bills he has sponsored and the dozens more he has co-sponsored were measures to allow Mainers to carry a concealed weapon without a permit, to repeal state seat belt laws and to eliminate bail requirements for non-violent offenders.

That’s a lot of high-profile bills for a self-described libertarian who ran on a platform of limited government.

“A lot of people play it safe and worry about their re-election,” Brakey said in an interview last week at the State House. “I have every intention to run for re-election, but I don’t want my time up here to be wasted.


“And I figured there are going to be hundreds of bills anyway, I might as well get in the mix.”

Brakey’s biggest victory to date has been L.D. 652, a controversial bill that repeals Maine’s concealed weapon permit requirement. He worked with the gun lobby, Democrats and Gov. Paul LePage at the eleventh hour to get a bill passed that had failed in the Maine Legislature by a single vote two years ago.

“He hasn’t ruffled feathers,” said Lance Dutson, a longtime Republican strategist. “He’s successfully moved legislation and he’s done it in a productive and positive way. He has also helped move the party more toward the libertarian side. I’ve been a little surprised at his trajectory.”

Perhaps most noteworthy has been Brakey’s leadership as Senate chairman of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee. By all accounts, he has presided over the committee in an even-tempered and respectful way, no easy task given the partisan and emotion-laden nature of many bills debated there.

Brakey’s Democratic counterpart on the committee, Rep. Drew Gattine of Westbrook, said he’s been pleasantly surprised at Brakey’s maturity, although the two disagree on most issues.

Sen. Peter Edgecomb, R-Caribou, the oldest member of the Maine Senate, said Brakey has succeeded in his first term for one simple reason.


“He’s a worker,” Edgecomb said.


Brakey is an eighth-generation Mainer but grew up in Ohio and graduated from high school in Shaker Heights, an upscale suburb of Cleveland.

His father, a Fox News-watching Reagan Republican, worked in the energy industry and founded an eponymous energy firm that is run today by Brakey’s brother, Matt.

Brakey went to college in Ohio, too, at Ohio University. He majored in theater and had dreams of being an actor.

In 2010, after he graduated, Brakey moved to New York City. He performed in plays and even landed a role in a commercial that would resurface during his campaign in 2014.


Brakey also became more politically active in New York, gravitating, like many 20-somethings, toward the libertarian views of then-U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, a Republican from Texas.

When Paul decided to run for president, Brakey joined the campaign and was sent to Maine, where he spent every summer at his family’s camp on Sabbathday Lake in New Gloucester and where his parents had recently retired.

He joined with another young like-minded Republican, David Boyer, to help run Paul’s Maine operation.

“He’s a good ambassador of limited government,” said Boyer, who has become a regular player at the State House as head of the Marijuana Policy Project. “Many people have the same view but can’t really explain it. He’s really great at that.”

Brakey was among a group of Paul supporters who successfully took over the 2012 Maine Republican State Convention and elected delegates to send to the national convention in Florida. The insurrection angered many establishment Republicans. Brakey took a good deal of their ire.

Dutson, who worked for U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and has been aligned more with establishment Republicans, said the fear was that people like Brakey were just stirring up trouble but wouldn’t stick around.


“He has worked hard to confound those expectations,” Dutson said.

Brakey and Boyer built on their success at the convention by forming the Defense of Liberty Political Action Committee, to support libertarian candidates in the Ron Paul mold.

The PAC was active in the 2012 election and had some success. Republicans as a whole, though, lost control of both the Maine House and Senate during that election. One of the Republicans who lost her seat was Lois Snowe-Mello of Poland.

Shortly after the election, Snowe-Mello got a call from Brakey, who had moved to Auburn. He wanted to run for her Senate seat in 2014.

“At that time I said, ‘Let me think about (it),’ ” Snowe-Mello said. “I really didn’t know him.”

Less than a year later, she was chairing his campaign.



Brakey declared his candidacy against incumbent Democratic Sen. John Cleveland early in 2013.

That allowed him to do two things: start raising money (he ended up breaking fundraising records in a state Senate race) and introduce himself to voters in the district, which includes Auburn, New Gloucester, Poland, Minot and Mechanic Falls.

He ended up winning all five communities, the first Republican in almost 40 years to win a majority in Auburn. The last was Olympia Snowe in 1976 – a dozen years before Brakey was born.

The Senate race between Brakey and Cleveland was noteworthy not only because it took place in a swing district, but also because it featured one of the more colorful side stories of the 2014 election.

In August 2013, video emerged of a commercial Brakey had shot in 2011 for Vita Coco water. In it, Brakey and several other actors are seen dancing around in Speedos.


The goofy ad made him the punchline of a lot of jokes, but Brakey deftly brushed the criticism aside and it didn’t hurt him politically.

Speaking about the ad last week, he said he’s never taken himself too seriously and is still proud of it.

Snowe-Mello said Brakey won her former seat the old-fashioned way: by pounding the pavement.

“It was a sign to me that the party was ready for some young, fresh energy and he has that,” she said.

After the 2014 election, Brakey lobbied to chair the Energy and Utilities Committee. Energy is the family business and he works part time for Brakey Energy doing accounting.

Instead, he was given Health and Human Services, a committee that historically debates more bills than any other, and one that would be especially high-profile after an election that saw Republicans, including Brakey and LePage, win in large part on a platform of welfare reform.


Brakey, as head of that committee, ended up sponsoring a number of welfare-related bills, including several that came from the governor’s office. Many of those are still awaiting final votes.

“Over and over when I was knocking on doors campaigning, that was the one thing I heard most from voters,” Brakey said.

If there is criticism of Brakey among lawmakers, it is that he has little life experience to draw from. But others say he conducts himself with the resolve of a veteran.

“There are two molds that a state legislator usually fits,” Dutson said. ‘One is that their life story or their work is such that it leads them to service. The other is that someone represents a value system, and that’s where he fits in.

“Also, he is fairly strident ideologically, but he approaches things moderately, which has served him well.”



His mild-mannered nature helped him shepherd the hot-button concealed weapon permit bill through the process.

Brakey sought support from moderate Democrats in districts where gun rights were important and avoided us-versus-them rhetoric in pitching his bill, and it worked.

Maine is soon to join only five other states with so-called constitutional carry laws.

Brakey said the bill is about affirming the Second Amendment, but also about his belief that government should be as limited as possible.

Gattine, the Westbrook Democrat, said the one thing that has surprised him about Brakey is that, for someone who prides himself on being a limited-government guy, he has supported more spending within the Department of Health and Human Services.

Some members of Brakey’s party have similar concerns.


Jason Greene of Durham, a member of the Maine Republican State Committee, has known Brakey since 2011 and the Ron Paul campaign.

Greene said he’s been impressed by Brakey on some things, like the concealed weapons bill, but less so on other issues.

“I think a lot of people have been scratching their heads over his lack of opposition to Governor LePage’s budget, particularly the sales tax increase,” Greene said.

Greene also said Brakey, as co-chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee, has surprised many by not resisting more government spending, something that is curious for a libertarian-leaning Republican.

But Boyer said Brakey is not someone who is at risk of becoming an establishment Republican.

“He worked his butt off, but he didn’t do that to be just another guy up there,” Boyer said. “He wants to have these conversations. He’s taken some lumps with the establishment and either he’ll get re-elected or not, but I think he’s stayed true to himself.”


Brakey said he is just as likely to take criticism from the establishment as he is from libertarians. His unabashed support for medical marijuana expansion, and even for marijuana legalization, has brought some eye-rolling his way, he said.

And his bill to affirm Fourth Amendment protection from warrantless searches has gotten more support from Democrats than Republicans.


If Brakey is rattled by the unpredictability, or irritated by inaction or even tired of the long days, he hasn’t shown it. He said he’s single and has a flexible job that allows him to focus his energy on being a lawmaker.

But he said he’s looking forward to wrapping up the current legislative session, not so he can start campaigning again, but so he can devote time to another passion: acting.

Since his return to Maine, Brakey hasn’t landed any more roles for Speedo-clad dancers, but he has been involved in community theater. One of his most recent roles was Felix Unger, the neat, tightly wound half of Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple,” at the Lewiston/Auburn Community Little Theater.


He said he’d like to audition for the theater’s production of Oscar Wilde’s farce “The Importance of Being Earnest,” which features characters inventing false personas to avoid social and economic responsibilities.

Asked if he has a part in mind, Brakey smiled.

“One of the Ernests, I guess.”


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