AUGUSTA — Republican lawmakers chose a Winter Harbor lobsterman and a New Gloucester business owner as their new leaders in the Maine House of Representatives during a caucus at the State House Monday.

Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham, known as an outspoken advocate for the lobster industry, was chosen as minority leader. Rep. Amy Arata, who serves on the powerful Appropriations Committee, was chosen as assistant minority leader.

Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham

The pair will assume leadership after a disappointing election for Maine Republicans. While the party was expected to pick up seats in the Legislature, Democrats held their majority in the Senate and actually added to it in the House.

The House Republicans met in the House chamber without the public or media to choose leaders and hash out an agenda and a post-election political strategy.

Faulkingham prevailed over three other challengers for the minority leader post after three rounds of voting that took over two hours to complete.

Faulkingham, who is entering his third term representing his Down East community and served as a ranking member of the Marine Resources Committee last year, gave only a brief statement to reporters after his election before being whisked away by a House spokesperson. Faulkingham did not offer any insight into the caucus’s policy priorities for the coming session.


“The Republican Party has been branded by the opposition and now it’s time we brand ourselves,” Faulkingham said just outside the chambers. “We’re the party of family values and workers. The caucus has chosen a lobsterman and a family man, and that’s the direction we’re going.”

Faulkingham has supported reducing and eliminating the income tax and opposes the Clean Elections program, which provides public funds for candidates who agree to limit private contributions. He’s mostly known for being an outspoken advocate for the lobster industry, pushing back against federal regulations and advocating for a lobster defense fund using tax dollars.

The leadership position came down to Faulkingham and Rep. Josh Morris, of Turner. Rep. Laurel Libby, of Dixfield, and Rep. Jack Ducharme, of Madison, also ran. Faulkingham was selected after a series of runoffs.

Rep. Amy Arata

Rep. Heidi Sampson, of Alfred, nominated Faulkingham to the post. Afterwards, Sampson said she did so because he is a hard worker, not only as a lobsterman, but also inside the Legislature, where he works with Democrats, and on the campaign trail for candidates.

“We need a working leader,” Sampson said. “Because of his charming personality, he has a unique way of working with all kinds of people.”

Arata, meanwhile, prevailed in a first-ballot vote as a write-in candidate against two opponents, Rep. Amanda Collamore, of Pittsfield, and Rep. Shelley Rudnicki, of Fairfield.


The New Gloucester representative is entering her third term and served on two of the most powerful legislative committees: Appropriations and Financial Affairs, which writes the budget; and the Government Oversight Committee, the legislative panel with subpoena power that oversees state agencies. The GOC recently voted to sue the Mills administration to gain access to confidential and investigative documents relating to the state’s child protective services.

After the votes, Arata stressed not only the need for party unity, but also the need to work across the aisle and to better communicate the caucus’s values and priorities to constituents and the media.

“We’re here to serve the state of Maine – Democrat, Republican and unenrolled – it’s doesn’t matter,” she said. “I think we need to do a better job of reaching out to (the media.) You’re not the enemy.”

The previous House Republican minority and assistant minority leaders, Kathleen Dillingham and Joel Stetkis, respectively, were term-limited from office.

Other representatives were fairly tight-lipped as they left the chamber, simply offering their support to new leadership and stressing unity in the party ranks.



Rep. Jennifer Poirier, of Skowhegan, said one argument in the chambers was that Republicans need to represent all of their constituents, not just those in their party.

“We want people to know we’re approachable. We’re here for you,” she said.

However, several members pointed at the need for Democrats to work across party lines as well, rather than simply paying lip service to bipartisanship.

“I hope (Democrats) bring Republicans to the table, because it’s important to hear everyone’s voice, not just the majority’s,” said Rep. Mark Blier, of Buxton. “We will see if the other side at least allows us to have a voice and not just say we have a voice, but actually involve us in the decision-making.”

While most people approached after the votes declined to offer insight into how the caucus’s direction might change, Rep. David Woodsome, of North Waterboro, suggested a new course was needed.

“Obviously, we got our (expletive) kicked,” he said. “We need to do something.”

Democrats will choose their leaders on Thursday.

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