LEWISTON — With newfound majorities in the Maine House and Senate, Democrats are getting their candidates lined up for legislative leadership positions.
These include Senate president and speaker of the House of Representatives — two key officials who can determine the legislative agenda and are responsible for setting the tone, and often the pace, of debate in those bodies.
Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland, has emerged as the top candidate for the Senate presidency and confirmed Thursday he was seeking the post.
Alfond said he enjoyed the role of minority leader and believes he possesses the qualities to be a good Senate president.
He said his focus has been on making sure middle-class Maine families' voices were heard in the Maine Senate when it came to the issues of health care, taxes and education. That would continue as Senate president, he said.
Alfond said his intention for the post was to ensure Democrats could retain the majority in the Legislature going forward, and he didn't necessarily intend to use the post as a launchpad for higher elected office.
Because Maine is one of only a few states where the Legislature selects and votes on the constitutional officers of secretary of state, state treasurer and attorney general, it's likely Democrats will elect new officials for those posts, as well.
After the newly elected lawmakers are sworn in on Dec. 5, one of their first orders of business will be to elect constitutional officers.
Likely to be replaced are Republicans in those offices, including Secretary of State Charlie Summers, State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin and Attorney General Bill Schneider.
Several candidates for these posts are already emerging, including Janet Mills of Farmington, vice chairwoman of the Maine Democratic Party and a former Maine attorney general.
Mills served a two-year term and was the state's first female attorney general and the first woman in New England to serve as a district attorney. She said Thursday she was "absolutely" seeking the attorney general post again.
She said she has the legal, managerial and legislative experience to do the job well.
She personally likes Schneider and respects him as an attorney, Mills said. "He's a good guy," she said, but she would be "a lot more" independent from the LePage administration.
"The first priority of the attorney general is to represent the public's interests and not the interests of any particular commissioner or the governor," Mills said.
She said during her previous tenure, under Democratic Gov. John Baldacci, she was not always a "yes" woman.
"(Baldacci) respected my opinion, although we didn't always agree," Mills said. "My job is to give the best legal advice to this administration that I can give."
She said she would not have brought the lawsuit against the federal government that Schneider filed in regard to the federal Affordable Care Act over the state's efforts to reduce its MaineCare rolls.
Also seeking the post is Timothy Shannon of Yarmouth.
Attorney Neria Douglass of Auburn, a former state senator, is running for state treasurer. She is currently the state auditor.
Also seeking that seat is Jeremy Fisher, a Portland-based attorney, according to Ericka Dodge, the communications director for the Maine Senate Democrats.
Douglass confirmed Thursday she was running and was critical of Poliquin, saying he has politicized the office and has used it to advance a political agenda.
"It should be largely nonpartisan," Douglass said. "There's been some hysteria about revenues and expenses that isn't warranted. We need to get back to the calm business of government that serves all of our citizens and not a partisan agenda."
Former Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap is expected to seek re-election to that post, according to The Associated Press. Dunlap was forced out of office in 2010 when Republicans took the majority and elected Summers to the post.