AUGUSTA – Despite his sometimes rocky relationship with Gov. Paul LePage, Waldo County Sen. Mike Thibodeau was unanimously nominated Thursday for a second term as state Senate president.

Thibodeau, R-Winterport, was nominated on the first ballot. Republicans also returned Sens. Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon, and Andre Cushing, R-Newport, to the posts of majority leader and assistant majority leader, respectively. Sixteen of the 18-member Republican majority were present.

House Republicans also elected their leaders Thursday, returning Rep. Ken Fredette, R-Newport, to the post of minority leader and Rep. Ellie Espling, R-New Gloucester, as assistant minority leader.

Thibodeau’s nomination still needs approval from the full Senate, and that will be among the first orders of business once the Legislature convenes in December.

Thibodeau has been an instrumental negotiator for Senate Republicans on key issues including the most recent two-year state budget, which was enacted over LePage’s veto.

Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, who nominated Thibodeau, said his even-handed leadership and cool temperament have inspired lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

During often-contentious debates in the prior two-year session, Thibodeau held the Legislature together and rose above partisanship, Katz said.

“There was one rock in this place and that was Mike Thibodeau,” Katz said before the caucus vote.

Thibodeau would be the first Republican in 30 years to hold the Senate gavel for two consecutive sessions. He congratulated newly elected and returning senators and thanked them for their service.

“It’s very humbling,” Thibodeau said. “We defied the odds and I couldn’t be prouder of this group. Now let’s go earn the trust of the Maine citizens again.”

Cushing faced competition for assistant majority leader. Katz and newly elected Sen. Joyce Maker, R-Calais, nominated Sen. Brian Langley, R-Ellsworth, for the post, touting his leadership as Senate chairman of the Education Committee.

But Cushing was elected in a secret ballot vote. The role of the assistant majority leader, or whip, will be critical in the coming session. Republicans lost two seats Tuesday and now hold an 18-17 seat edge over Democrats. The whip keeps the party caucus unified on important issues and makes sure members are present for key votes.

Fredette will lead a caucus that grew from 68 to 73 seats Tuesday. Democrats held on to their majority with 76 seats, and there are also 2 new unenrolled lawmakers listed as libertarians. At least one of the 151 House seats is also likely headed for a recount, so the final numbers could still shift.

Thibodeau said the slim majorities in both houses mean lawmakers will have to work collaboratively.

“What I like to say is there really are no majorities,” Fredette told his caucus. “If we want to pass some legislation, we can pass legislation, but what it means is we are all going to have to work together, work with the other party, work with the Senate and work with the second floor.” The second floor of the State House is where the governor’s office is.

“We truly have the opportunity to hit that reset button, go forward and have a great time,” he said.

Fredette also said Republican lawmakers will have to be productive over the next two years if the party hopes to again gain seats in 2018.

Democrats in the Legislature are expected to select their leaders next week.


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