AUGUSTA — The chairman of the Maine Democratic Party said Thursday he intends to seek re-election later this month.
Ben Grant, a Portland-based lawyer, said he wants another term so he will have a chance to return the Blaine House to the Democrats. The choice of chairman will be decided by the party faithful on Jan. 27.
Grant became party chairman in January 2011. He acknowledged that recent statewide elections featuring Democratic candidates, including the 2010 gubernatorial race and the 2012 U.S. Senate race, were disappointments.
He stopped short of blaming the party’s choice of candidates, noting that he believed both former state Sen. Cynthia Dill in her U.S. Senate race and former state Senate Democratic Majority Leader Libby Mitchell in her 2010 race for the governor’s office faced unusual circumstances. Dill faced a political behemoth in Angus King and Mitchell faced independent Eliot Cutler in 2010.
Grant said results in the 2012 state legislative races showed the party had pulled itself back together and is appealing to more Maine voters.
He said the party is focusing on the 2014 gubernatorial race in hopes of unseating Republican Gov. Paul LePage. Democrats anticipate a rematch among their candidate, LePage and Cutler. Cutler’s campaign surged late but was unable to overcome LePage’s lead, while Mitchell finished a distant third in 2010.
The same scenario played out for Democrats in the 2012 race for the seat of retiring U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe. Democrats finished a distance third to King and the Republican candidate, Secretary of State Charles Summers.
Grant said Democrats would produce a candidate to rival Cutler and LePage in 2014. He didn’t suggest who that candidate would be but said he expects the party to win over Maine’s large bloc of unaffiliated voters.
“People are already moving and looking ahead to two years from now,” Grant said. “We are coming off from two straight years where an unenrolled candidate has played a significant role in major races.”
He said 2012 showed Maine Democrats can win, and the party’s ability to take back majorities in both the state House and Senate was evidence of that.
“I think we proved to people we learned, we got better, we can win and we will continue to win races here in Maine,” Grant said.