WATERVILLE – The Democratic caucus of the incoming Maine Senate nominated Beth Edmonds of Freeport on Tuesday night for the post of presiding officer.

Edmonds, the Senate chairwoman of the Labor Committee, is returning for a third term. In addition to her Labor panel role, she is on the Natural Resources Committee.

The caucus election came on the eve of a recount scheduled to resolve Maine’s lone disputed Senate election. Democrats hope the outcome will guarantee them a bare Senate majority for the next two years.

Preliminary jockeying offered caucus members a variety of choices.

Sen. Kenneth Gagnon of Waterville is the only member of the outgoing Democratic Senate leadership team coming back for another term. He had described himself as an unlikely choice to take the top slot, but held open the possibility that his colleagues could turn to him in the event of a deadlock.

In voting by secret ballot, Edmonds bested Sen. Lynn Bromley of South Portland, who was eliminated in the first round, and Sen. John Martin of Eagle Lake, who finished as the runner-up.

Circumstances guaranteed that the new Democratic Senate bloc will have a new look at the top. Departing due to term limits are Senate President Beverly Daggett, D-Augusta, and Majority Leader Sharon Treat, D-Farmingdale.

The Tuesday night leadership election was scheduled under the assumption that Democrats will narrowly control the new Senate by a margin of 18-17 over Republicans, but that still must be definitively determined.

On Wednesday, state election officials will preside over a recount of a Bangor-area Senate contest in which Democratic Rep. Joseph Perry came away on Election Night as the apparent winner by 298 votes over incumbent Republican Sen. Tom Sawyer.

The new Senate Republican caucus chose its leaders Monday, re-electing Paul Davis of Sangerville to the position of floor leader and making Carol Weston of Montville the deputy.

Democrats held an 18-17 Senate edge over the least two years and in the session before that the chamber was split 17-17 after the general election, with one independent.

New lawmakers are to be sworn in on Dec. 1.

AP-ES-11-16-04 2141EST



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