AUGUSTA — State House Republican leaders were near giddy Wednesday over the 2016 Election results for Maine’s Legislature. While there were still some races under review, it appears Republicans had fended off Democrats’ attempt to capture control of the state Senate, while also picking up enough seats in the Maine House to be near parity with majority Democrats there.

With a solid 72 seats in hand, House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, who also won reelection unopposed, said Republicans would elect their caucus leaders Thursday.

Democrats held onto 74 seats, losing two to Republicans, but holding onto a razor-thin majority with another two new lawmakers elected Tuesday who were listing themselves as Libertarians. Three seats hadn’t yet been decided.

Fredette said Republicans were ready to go to work quickly and would stand firm on issues they previously battled Democrats on, noting with more seats it would be easier to sustain vetoes by Republican Gov. Paul LePage.

“So let’s sit down and talk about what the real issues are and get some stuff done,” Fredette said. “Let’s not talk about what we have to stop, let’s talk about what we have to get done.”

Fredette said he wasn’t bracing for gridlock.

“The bottom line is there is no balance of power, it is a reality is that everyone is going to have a say in what goes on,” Fredette said. “The numbers are so close everyone is going to have a say – each caucus is going to have a say.”

Still Fredette said House Republicans would continue to take “very hard stands in terms of what we believe is important.” He said that was the case when House Republicans resisted that last state budget passed in 2015, until there were adequate income tax cuts put in place. It is likely LePage will again propose a reduction to the state’s income tax rate that will be supported by Republicans in the Legislature.

Republican Senate President Mike Thibodeau, who won reelection to his District 11 seat in Waldo County on Tuesday, said it was the first time since 1980 that voters returned Republicans to the majority in the Senate for back-to-back lawmaking sessions. Despite losing a seat to Democrats in the upper body, Thibodeau said Republicans had gained ground but the work the incoming Legislature had before it would take bipartisan compromise.

He said Republican candidates who won election Tuesday did it by earning the trust of voters locally even as political action committees supporting Democrats outspent those supporting Republicans by more than $1 million.

“It isn’t about buying these seats, they are not for sale,” Thibodeau said. “It’s about having really great candidates who are willing to work hard and earn the voters’ trust, I’m pretty excited about that.”

Thibodeau said that with up to five ballot questions likely to pass, including at least two that have been anathema for fiscal conservatives, the Legislature would have its work cut out figuring out how to enact those questions, which covered everything from a state income tax hike for individuals earning over $200,000 to legalizing marijuana, to a big increase of the minimum wage.

“There are substantial rules that have to be written and adopted – there were some pretty big decisions made by the narrowest of margins,” Thibodeau said. “So the 128th Legislature is going to have a brand new and heavy work load.”

Both Thibodeau and Fredette said that work in addition to crafting a balanced state budget, which must be enacted by June 30, 2017, to avoid a government shutdown, would keep some of the perennial debates lawmakers engage in at bay.

“Rehashing a lot of old debates, I don’t anticipate is going to attract a lot of attention,” Thibodeau said.

Even though Republicans lost one seat in the Senate and now hold a narrow 18-17 seat margin over Democrats in the chamber, Fredette and Thibodeau pointed to Tuesday’s results as more proof Maine’s political makeup was shifting toward Republicans again. Fredette said Tuesday’s vote was proof Maine was “purple if not turning red.”

But Senate Democratic Minority Leader Justin Alfond, D-Portland, who will not return to the Legislature this year because of term limits, claimed a limited victory for Democrats Wednesday as well.

“In the end, we did not win the majority,” Alfond said in a prepared statement. “But we have made progress. The 17-member Senate Democratic caucus will fight for the moms and dads worried about their kids’ futures. They will fight for the workers struggling to get by as they cobble together a living working full time, sometimes at multiple jobs. They will fight for seniors, whose fixed incomes are stretched thin by rising property taxes. And they will fight for the countless Maine families whose lives have been touched by the deadly drug epidemic.”

House and Senate Democrats are expected to elect their caucus leaders next week.

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 791-6330 or at:

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