Democratic legislators Tuesday nominated state Sen. Shenna Bellows to be Maine’s next secretary of state.

Sen. Shenna Bellows, D-Manchester, speaks during a Labor and Housing Committee meeting in June. Bellows now stands to become Maine’s first female secretary of state. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

The Manchester resident, former executive director of the ACLU of Maine, would be the first woman to hold the post if the full Legislature approves her Wednesday.

Democrats also nominated Aaron Frey and Henry Beck for re-election to two-year terms as attorney general and state treasurer, respectively.

The 100 Democrats voting used a ranked-choice process to decide between five candidates, and Bellows advanced after four rounds of ballot tabulation.

The Department of the Secretary of State runs elections in Maine, but also is in charge of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, the Bureau of Corporations and the state archives.

Bellows promised to advance the use of technology in the department, but in a way that would protect privacy and expand voter access.

“I will work with our awesome state employees to show Maine people that our government is working for them,” Bellows said in a speech before the vote.

She said she was struck by something her 4-year-old niece said during a family Thanksgiving Zoom meeting. The young girl said she was, “thankful that women can do anything,” Bellows said.

The Republican caucus elected former state Sen. Eric Brakey of Auburn as its nominee. They chose Alexander Willette to run for attorney general and Dennis Keschl for state treasurer. Both are former House members.

The full Legislature will vote on the offices during a joint convention after lawmakers are sworn in Wednesday during ceremonies at the Augusta Civic Center, which provides more pandemic social distancing space than the State House. Because Gov. Janet Mills is quarantining after being exposed to someone likely to have COVID-19, legislators will be sworn in by Andrew Mead, acting chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

Because Democrats control 102 of the 186 seats in the Legislature, it’s likely their nominees will prevail.

Bellows will probably not be sworn in to her Senate seat Wednesday, which will set up a special election to fill her vacant seat once she is officially elected to the Secretary of State’s Office.

Unlike most states, Maine’s constitution authorizes the Legislature to elect the state’s three constitutional officers – the secretary of  state, attorney general and state treasurer.

The other Democrats in the running for secretary of state were Sen. Justin Chenette of Saco, who did not seek re-election this year; Rep. Matthew Moonen of Portland; Rep. Craig Hickman of Winthrop and Rep. Erik Jorgensen of Portland, all of whom are termed out; and former state Rep. Thomas Bull of Freeport.

Frey, of Bangor, and Beck, of Waterville, faced no challengers for re-election as attorney general and state treasurer.

Bellows would succeed Matt Dunlap, a Democrat from Old Town who was first elected to the office in 2005. He has served seven two-year terms in all, including the last four, and is now termed out.

Democrats voted to nominated Dunlap to a four-year term as state auditor. The office was created by law in 1883 to review the state’s financial statements and federal expenditures – essentially to audit state government spending. The Republican nominee is Benjamin Lombard.

The auditor must be a licensed certified public accountant or a college graduate with at least six years experience as an accountant or auditor, with no less than five years of auditing experience and at least four years of supervisory experience. Dunlap does not meet all those requirements, but has said he will obtain his certified public accountant license within nine months, as permitted under the law.

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