PORTLAND (AP) — Maine Senate President Mike Thibodeau says he was happy to participate in Portland’s Martin Luther King Jr. celebration.

Thibodeau made history Monday as the first elected Republican official to address the event in its 35-year history. He said all people must be vigilant to ensure that “we never again allow hatred and bigotry to be the norm in our state.”

Maine GOP Chairman Rick Bennett also attended.

It’s a far cry from the infamous “kiss my butt” rebuff delivered by newly elected GOP Gov. Paul LePage to the Portland NAACP in 2011.

Rachel Talbot Ross, president of the Portland NAACP, tells the Portland Press Herald that she hopes the GOP presence signified the potential for improved relations on issues related to poverty, immigration and social justice.

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