AUGUSTA (AP) – Gov. John Baldacci’s nominee for the post of Labor Department commissioner, veteran women’s issues activist Laura Fortman, prompted not one question during her appearance Thursday at a Labor Committee confirmation hearing.

No one spoke against her and, after testimony from an array of backers, the longtime executive director of the Maine Women’s Policy Center and Maine Women’s Lobby received not a single negative vote.

The panel’s 13-0 endorsement all but guarantees the nomination will be confirmed by the state Senate, where a two-thirds majority would be needed to override the committee recommendation.

Fortman, a State House activist from Nobleboro who has lobbied for years on women’s health and economic issues, was nominated for the post two weeks ago.

If confirmed by the Senate, Fortman will succeed Valerie Landry as head of the Labor Department.

The Labor Department, which has more than 600 employees, oversees Maine’s Career Centers and administers unemployment, job safety and workplace safety laws. It also oversees work force training and education and gathers statewide labor statistics.

Fortman told panelists she was prepared to move from the role of activist to administrator.

“Today, I want you to know that I clearly understand those different roles and responsibilities and am willing to tackle the challenges of implementing the policies adopted by the Legislature,” Fortman said in a prepared statement.

Baldacci, almost four months on the job, still has several Cabinet vacancies but has said his departmental restructuring plans – human services, mental health, perhaps economic and community development – have allowed him to keep some top slots open.

Among those expressing support for Fortman’s nomination Thursday were Senate Republican leader Paul Davis and House Democratic whip Robert Duplessie.

A written statement opposing the nomination was distributed on behalf of the Christian Civic League of Maine, which has often been at odds with the Maine Women’s Lobby.

Fortman was praised by Baldacci aide Kathryn Monahan Ainsworth, who credited the nominee with “extensive experience building coalitions and gaining bipartisan support for meaningful legislation.”

AP-ES-05-01-03 1724EDT

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