AUGUSTA (AP) – Democrat Patrick Colwell, the outgoing speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, announced Monday he is withdrawing as a candidate for the Maine Senate.

The four-term Gardiner lawmaker cited personal reasons.

“Since the end of this legislative session I have had time to reflect on my personal life,” Colwell said in a prepared statement.

“In that time my wife and I have agreed to end our marriage of 33 years. I need to change the focus of my personal life and I have decided that I cannot do that as a public figure,” he said.

Colwell said he would serve out the final months of his House term, which could include another special legislative session. He also said he would support a Democratic replacement candidate for Senate District 21.

Born in Machias, Colwell has worked as a tiling contractor and is an accomplished musician and avid fisherman. One-and-a-half years ago, he succeeded Michael Saxl as speaker in a House that Democrats have effectively held for three decades.

In his statement Monday, Colwell listed legislative highlights of his House career that he said “helped move our economy forward and better the lives of Maine people.”

Among the initiatives he mentioned were electric deregulation, prescription drug legislation and the Fund for a Healthy Maine.

“This past session I was honored to be a part of the creation of Dirigo Health, a plan to ensure universal access to health care for all Maine people. Again showing that Maine people and the Maine Legislature believe Dirigo … is much more than just a motto,” he said.

Colwell said Maine had been made safer by the enactment of the Violence Intervention Prevention Act and that the provision of public education had been reformed by the adoption of an essential programs and services funding model.

“Serving in the House of Representatives has consumed all aspects of my life for the last eight years. During that time I have been singularly focused on that task and I am very proud of the results of this work. Unfortunately, this has taken a toll on my professional and personal life,” Colwell said.

In the House, Colwell has represented Gardiner and part of Randolph. During his term as speaker, another capital-area Democrat, Beverly Daggett, has served as president of the Senate.

Commenting on the ascendancy of central Maine lawmakers as the current two-year legislative session opened in late 2003, Colwell said:

“Maybe it’s because we are central Maine. We have some of the attributes and the economic development activities that are going on in southern Maine and then we still have the challenges of northern and rural Maine.

“There is a lot of rural Maine left around here. We see the challenges of the remnants of an agriculture industry, we see the challenges that we have of losing maturing industrial jobs.

“I think one of the things that the other parts of the state see in us is an ability to pull those two or four Maines together. And really what you’re talking about is rural Maine and urban Maine.”

House Republican leaders issued a joint statement Monday wishing the Colwell family “the best during this troubling period.”

The House Republican leaders added: “As the Speaker noted in his statement, service in the Legislature and particularly in a leadership capacity can be a great personal strain on the Legislator and his or her family. Many legislators experience both personal and financial hardship as they struggle to balance the requirements of government service with their personal careers and family responsibilities.

“We know the Speaker devoted countless hours to his position and to the people of Maine and deserves their best wishes. While our relationship with Speaker Colwell was at times contentious we certainly wish only the best for him and his family as they work through this trying time.”

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