Democrats have gained control of the Maine Legislature, growing their majority in the House of Representatives and recapturing a decisive majority in the Senate.

Democrats picked up at least 21 seats in the 35-seat Senate, while they appeared poised to take at least 81 seats in the 151-seat House, with some results sill pending in a handful of races and others still too close to call.

The victories for Democrats Tuesday mark the first time in six years that one party has gained control of the entire Legislature and the governorship, with the historic win by Janet Mills, the attorney general. She became the state’s first woman to be elected governor in a decisive victory over Republican businessman Shawn Moody.

Republicans appeared to have won at least 56 seats in the House, while six other seats were captured by independent candidates and another eight seats had either not yet been reported or were too close to call.

Democrats last controlled the governorship and both chambers of the Legislature in 2008, during the administration of Gov. John Baldacci. In 2010 Republicans turned the tables – only to lose their majorities in the House and Senate in the next cycle of elections in 2012. In 2014, Republicans gained a majority in the Senate and held onto it by one seat in 2016.

The Democratic sweep should end an era of highly-charged partisan discord that was dominated by outgoing Republican Gov. Paul LePage and his prolific use of the veto. LePage governed largely by mobilizing the House minority Republican caucus to sustain a historic number of vetoes – more than all other governors combined going back to 1917.

Beyond that, LePage made the Legislature’s work more difficult by often refusing to allow members of his cabinet or other top administration officials to provide testimony to legislative committees.

LePage also five times vetoed bills that would have expanded the state’s Medicaid system to an additional 70,000 low-income Mainers. He has stalled implementation of expansion, which voters finally approved at the ballot-box in November 2017, by vetoing funding and taking legal action.

Democrats and Mills campaigned largely on access to affordable health care, and Mills has vowed to enacted the Medicaid expansion during her first days in office.

“I think Mainers sent a pretty clear message in that they want a change in how our state is run,” Sen. Nate Libby, D-Lewiston, the Senate’s current assistant minority leader said Wednesday. Libby said Democrats would use their new-found power to focus on so-called pocketbook issues, including property taxes, the cost of prescription drugs and student debt relief.

“These are things we can accomplish with the support and collaboration of our Republican colleagues,” Libby said. He said the era of a state government that is in constant partisan gridlock or dysfunction because of a combative and often hostile governor was about to come to a close.

Libby noted that often the only way the Legislature was able to extract information from LePage’s administration was to use the Government Oversight Committee’s subpoena powers to compel witnesses to appear before them.

“I think that’s a really poor way for the Legislature to function,” Libby said. “I expect that is going to change in a big way with the new administration.”

Libby said Democrats were already beginning to start conversations about how they would make good on their promises. At the top of the list was funding Medicaid expansion and keeping in place a more than $160 million state boost to public school funding. That money is included in the state’s current two-year budget but is not committed for the future.

“I think we are excited but we also feel there is a major responsibility to deliver on the promises we made,” Libby said.

Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, the current Senate Minority Leader and a likely candidate for Senate President, echoed Libby’s sentiment in a press release early Wednesday.

“At the end of the day, Maine people don’t care which party you identify with, they just want someone who is honest, believes in our state and vows to do what they say they’ll do,” Jackson said. “And you can be damn sure that is what we intend to do in the Maine State Senate.”

LePage, in a prepared statement, congratulated all the winners of the elections on Tuesday.

“Mainers have entrusted you with the future of our state and to represent all of the people,” LePage said. “Please hold that trust sacred. In addition, I specifically wish Governor-Elect Janet Mills well in her new role.”

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