Republican state lawmakers didn’t even show up for the fight to nominate Maine’s constitutional officers on Thursday.
During the first day of the new State Legislature, the House of Representatives and the Senate voted on candidates for State Treasurer, Secretary of State, and Attorney General.
Although Democrats, with majorities in both houses, were in the driver’s seat for selections, Republicans didn’t even put forward viable alternatives.
In statements after the fact, Republican leaders said they chose not to contest the elections because of an ideological belief that these offices ought to be selected by popular vote rather than according to the terms currently prescribed by Maine’s State Constitution.
The Maine State Constitution requires that the positions be filled by a majority vote of both houses of the Legislature.
“We chose not to nominate anyone this year because, for some time now, Republicans have felt these choices should be made by the people,” said Senate Minority Leader Trey Stewart (R-Aroostook).
“We’re the only state in the nation where the Legislature selects these very important positions,” he said.
House Minority Leader Billy Bob Faulkingham (R-Winter Harbor) agreed.
“Maine should do what the rest of the country does – have our Constitutional Officers directly elected by the people, not party insiders,” said Faulkingham.
Following the uncontested elections, Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, State Treasurer Henry Beck, and Attorney General Aaron Frey — all Democratic Party insiders — will continue in their roles.
Although Republicans cast the decision not to contest the elections as part of a philosophical belief about the process, a bigger part of the problem is the lack of candidates to even fill those posts.
The Republican bench for positions like constitutional offices is not deep.
Prior to the election, when many Republican lawmakers expecting to win a majority in the House — and therefore face a different calculus going into constitutional officer selection — many in the GOP couldn’t say precisely who might be good choices for Attorney General, State Treasurer, or Secretary of State.
Regardless of the reasoning for failing to contest the elections, several long-time Maine conservatives were unimpressed with the showing.
“I like what I’m seeing out of these guys in the early innings,” noted one, with heavy sarcasm.
“What about their oath to uphold the Constitution?” asked another.
“It makes them look not ready for prime time.”