A few weeks ago, the Maine Republican Party held the 2016 State Convention. A majority of the media coverage that came out of the weekend’s activities focused on the current presidential election with headlines containing terms such as: Cruz sweeps, LePage criticizes, etc.
I find this to be unfortunate because while a considerable amount of energy was focused on the election of delegates to the Republican National Convention, I feel that the real winners of the Maine Republican Convention were State Senator Eric Brakey and Rick Bennett, chairman of the Maine Republican Party.
After the late Lois Snowe-Mello lost her bid for re-election to the State Senate, Eric Brakey decided to throw his hat into the ring. Party officials thought that Brakey wasn’t going to be able to win the seat. Brakey not only proved them wrong, but he crushed it and won his race by almost 20 points. This is now referred to as “Pulling a Brakey,” meaning: to be considered an underdog, work your tail off and somehow win an election.
Since taking the seat, Senator Brakey has racked up one major legislative victory after another. Out of the gate, he was named chair of the powerful Health and Human Services committee. He was also the chief advocate and father of the new Constitutional Carry law.
Senator Brakey even caught the attention of the Portland Press Herald when they published an article titled “No take-it-slow start for rookie Maine Legislator.” These are only a few of many examples of what Senator Brakey has accomplished during his first term as a State Senator. It’s remarkable how quickly he went from the Ron Paul activist viewed as an outsider to many members of the party in 2012 to the son of the Maine Republican Party today.
Senator Brakey was honored at the State Committee dinner the night before convention and on the arena floor during convention, earning the backing of most of the presidential campaigns to be a delegate at the Republican National Convention.
This convention symbolized how Senator Brakey has quickly become a heavy hitter within the Maine GOP. Everyone in the party wishes there were more of him. How was Senator Brakey able accomplish so much while sticking to his principals and earning the respect of every faction of the party? I have a hunch, but I can’t say for sure. However, one thing I do know is that Senator Brakey is one to watch, and he’s only getting started.
Rick Bennett, another major winner at last weekend’s event, is well known for his time and involvement within state government. Representing Oxford County, Bennett formerly served as President of the Maine State Senate. Bennett is competent, Harvard educated and a true renaissance man. This Kentucky colonel is also known for his hard work and business prowess. Directorship magazine has recognized Bennett six times in its annual list of the 100 “most influential people in corporate governance and the boardroom.”
Bennett took the reins for the Maine GOP at a time when there was a lot of work to be done. Since day one as Chairman, he has had one message: unity. In 2014, Bennett oversaw a state convention that highlighted theprogress that the party had made under his leadership. That convention was anight and day compared to the 2012 one.
This unity and Bennett’s political talent was highlighted further when he lead party efforts that assisted the re-election of Governor LePage and United States Senator Collins while electing Congressman Poliquin and gaining the majority in the Maine State Senate. Bennett was quickly dubbed “the most winningest chairman” among conservative circles.
More recently, Bennett was unanimously re-elected to his position of party Chairman by the state committee. The state committee is made up of 77 republicans that are elected to represent their county. I have served on the committee for two years and I can’t think of many votes that passed unanimously.
The 2016 state convention was crucial to campaigns, the party and Bennett. After the execution of yet another high-quality state convention, it is clear that the 2014 convention wasn’t just a fluke. Bennett has succeeded in engaging Maine Republicans to work in the same direction. He has proven himself as a valuable quarterback that consistently leads his team to third down conversion.