AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine politics in 2020 noticed a U.S. Senate race that shattered spending records, a legislative session reduce brief by the coronavirus pandemic and native governments scrambling to adapt to strained funds and new calls for.
In that surroundings, some political figures confirmed their endurance and others look primed to tackle better roles subsequent yr. From the halls of Washington to the Augusta Civic Middle to Metropolis Corridor in Bangor, listed below are 10 Maine politicians to look at in 2021.
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins
Collins was decisively re-elected this yr after a grueling campaign, making her the primary Maine senator ever popularly elected to 5 phrases. The Washington she is going to return to subsequent yr may look loads totally different from the one she inhabited for the earlier 4 phrases.
The average Republican was usually in uncomfortable positions throughout the period of President Donald Trump. She was usually requested to touch upon his tweets of the day as Democrats hammered her solutions and bipartisan negotiating gave option to chaos. Living proof, she was among the many senators to hammer out a $900 billion coronavirus relief package this month solely to look at the Republican president blow up the deal after it handed each homes of Congress.
Collins, who has a long friendship with President-elect Joe Biden, may tackle a better position subsequent yr along with her social gathering out of the White Home. Whereas the ultimate composition of the Senate will not be but set, with social gathering management relying on the outcomes of two Georgia runoffs in early January, Collins is more likely to discover herself able the place comparatively little can get by the higher chamber with out her help. That’s a strong place to be.
Gov. Janet Mills
The composition of the Maine Legislature could not look too totally different within the second half of Mills’ first time period as governor, however the political panorama nonetheless does. Though the Democratic governor has taken loads of warmth from conservative Republicans over her coronavirus restrictions this yr, her social gathering nonetheless has majorities in each chambers of the Legislature.
However after a yr the place the Legislature was notable largely for its absence, Mills will have to work with lawmakers to deal with a massive budget gap, a activity that would make it more difficult for her to advance priorities in different coverage areas. If an financial restoration is sluggish, it may put her deliberate 2022 reelection bid in jeopardy.
The governor seems to be decided to go forward with some pre-pandemic plans. She rolled out a four-year local weather agenda earlier this month that requires aggressive will increase within the makes use of of electrical automobiles and high-efficiency warmth pumps within the subsequent few years. Whether or not these concepts are ones she will get the lawmakers on board with is the following query.
Former Gov. Paul LePage
“I used to be Donald Trump earlier than Donald Trump grew to become well-liked,” LePage stated in 2016 when grew to become one of the best-known early endorsers of the long run president. Practically 5 years later, comparisons between them are as apt as ever. Their maintain on the Republican grassroots successfully put the social gathering beneath their management for the foreseeable future.
No politician animates the Maine conservative base like LePage, who started foreshadowing a 2022 return bid towards Mills whereas he was nonetheless in workplace. Republicans anticipate a proper run by the spring, however his camp has stated no announcement is deliberate. Nearly since Mills took over, the Maine Republican Celebration has sold merchandise depicting LePage with a “Miss Me But?” tag.
The nomination is his if he desires it, although his long and divisive record in a one-on-one battle with Mills could make for a tougher set of electoral challenges than these he confronted in 2010 or 2014. If he doesn’t run and a crowded major ensues, his endorsement could be key. A technique or one other, LePage nonetheless holds the playing cards in Maine Republican politics.
U.S. Rep. Jared Golden
Amid latest rumors that U.S. Sen. Angus King was within the operating for a Biden administration place, observers started tossing round potential replacements. Many suggested Golden on the heels of a strong win within the swing 2nd Congressional District. King’s appointment by no means got here to move, however the chatter may foreshadow a future race.
The Democrat has now received twice in a district that twice supported President Donald Trump and got more votes than the president this November. The seat held by the 38-year-old Marine veteran from Lewiston has traditionally been a launching pad. Six of the seven folks to carry it earlier than him have run for statewide workplace from the seat and 4 of them received these races.
He started his tenure main an aggressive cost on marketing campaign finance reform however opposing Home Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and opposing gun management. Golden has stated Democrats need to show independence and hit progressives for messaging on police reform.
Golden has downplayed hypothesis about operating for larger workplace, however ardent supporters peg him as a pure King successor. However U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of the first District has mulled statewide bids throughout her tenure. Her ex-husband, financier Donald Sussman, backed Golden’s 2018 primary challenger. It may portend an eventual intraparty battle.
Secretary of State-elect Shenna Bellows
Bellows confirmed a formidable potential to construct a coalition when she received the help of fellow Democratic lawmakers en path to profitable her new workplace particularly when three of her five opponents have been outgoing Home members with sturdy ties inside their caucus.
The brand new job matches her profile. A former head of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, she ran unsuccessfully towards Collins in 2014 however then proved to be a diligent state senator after being elected two years later. She is now on many shortlists for high-level races to return.
With voting rights a warmer matter than ever, Bellows is poised to push ahead progressive concepts together with paying for postage for absentee ballots and on-line voter registration. She has additionally stated her publish needs to be elected by voters and never legislators and indicated curiosity in strengthening privateness protections and modernizing the state’s technological infrastructure.
Home Speaker Ryan Fecteau
Time period limits have introduced an attention-grabbing coda to Fecteau’s legislative tenure. First elected at age 22 to signify Biddeford, the 28-year-old is getting into his fourth and last consecutive time period because the nation’s youngest speaker and Maine’s youngest since 1842. He now faces the duty of managing relationships with Republicans and a fraught price range course of throughout the pandemic.
Fecteau has indicated a willingness to interrupt bread with main Republican counterparts who’re receiving him considerably warmly — at the least to start out — though he has signaled opposition to their aim of limiting Mills’ govt powers. He and Home Minority Chief Kathleen Dillingham, R-Oxford, share the precedence of strengthening broadband within the state.
However the finer factors on that problem are more likely to be the place any hang-ups and Fecteau has a lot to show as he ascends to a key position at a delicate time. With a restricted window and exhausting circumstances to take care of, Fecteau has a lot to show as we enter 2021.
State Sen. Rick Bennett
Bennett of Oxford is 57 years previous however effectively into his fourth decade at excessive ranges in Maine politics, together with stints as Senate president and two runs for Congress. He has by no means match neatly into one wing of the Republican Celebration. As chair of the state social gathering, he was a delegated partisan battler, however he’s additionally an environmentalist with a populist bent.
His newest flip is a compelling one. Again in his previous seat after a 16-year break from the Legislature, he’s immediately certainly one of Maine’s best-known and most skilled lawmakers and shall be on the middle of main coverage debates over the controversial Central Maine Energy hall and the recent pandemic matter of broadband enlargement.
Bennett already stunned observers by criticizing Republican leaders this month for not giving him a spot on the committee overseeing utilities, saying it was due to his strident opposition to the challenge. Lengthy recognized in Augusta as a tactical operator, his expertise and willingness to interrupt with conference make him a wild card.
Assistant Home Majority Chief Rachel Talbot-Ross
In two phrases as a rank-and-file member from Portland, Talbot-Ross has handed laws on home violence towards indigenous folks whereas pushing for legal justice reform. She has been on the forefront of state conversations about racial justice, main a fee devoted to recommending options to reduce disparities within the justice and well being care programs.
The daughter of the state’s first Black legislator, Talbot-Ross is the one Black girl ever elected to both chamber in Maine. Her rise to assistant majority chief this time period shall be a troublesome take a look at of her potential to carry far-flung Democrats in line after their majority was eroded within the 2020 election.
In November, Talbot-Ross hopes that her lived expertise will assist shepherd the broader Legislature in recognizing the significance of working by these points, saying actual change can solely come by disrupting the method and integrating fairness into each side of coverage.
State Rep. Sawin Millett
Debate over the brand new price range will dominate the legislative session subsequent yr as Maine faces a projected deficit of roughly $650 million through mid-2023. Millett, an 83-year-old Republican from Waterford, is aware of the ins and outs of the state price range course of in addition to anybody. He has served in 4 administrations, together with as LePage’s price range commissioner.
Millett is the lead Home Republican on the price range committee once more this yr, however others will lead the political banter with Democrats as he figures out finer factors of the price range. Democrats and Republicans alike have expressed doubts about elevating taxes amid a downturn, so anticipate the talk to be over the place cuts have to be made and the way a lot of Maine’s $258 million rainy day fund lawmakers wish to faucet into.
Millett argues towards overutilizing the fund, pointing to the distinctive circumstances of this downturn whereas saying the Legislature should look at making some short-term spending cuts everlasting. That could possibly be the place to begin for negotiations in Augusta this spring.
Bangor Metropolis Councilor Angela Okafor
In a yr that has seen native governments cope with strained revenues and new calls for for racial justice amid a pandemic that has disproportionately harmed folks of coloration, Okafor has helped drive adjustments within the Queen Metropolis and sits on the state’s financial restoration panel.
Her election within the fall of 2019 was historic. A Nigerian immigrant who runs her personal legislation agency and worldwide market, she grew to become Bangor’s first Black metropolis councilor and was part of a wave of people of coloration first elected to workplace within the state and area final yr.
Since then, Okafor has spoken about her household’s experiences with racism and advocated for brand new packages and initiatives, together with a racial equity committee for the town and variety coaching for college kids. She helped carry to gentle cases of racism college students confronted at Bangor Excessive College, then efficiently pushed the school department to nominate an individual of coloration to interchange the surface investigator tasked with probing these points.
BDN author Charles Eichacker contributed to this report.