WILTON – State Rep. Thomas Saviello, of Wilton, announced Friday he is leaving the Democratic Party and will become an independent, eroding the thin majority status held by House Democrats.

Saviello is making the change after “great soul-searching” to put his constituents ahead of the party, he said in a press release.

“I went to Augusta with a clear message,” he said. “My constituents said, ‘Represent our district well, make the state a better place. Then and only then, worry about the party.’ I have tried to live to this direction and feel this change will allow me to meet this objective.”

Making the decision was not easy, considering he holds many Democratic Party values, Saviello said in the release. But he said he is become increasingly concerned about partisan politics at the State House, especially with the recent state budget.

While he has voted for Democratic budgets, Saviello complained that good ideas were ignored. “I have always been taught a team is the sum of all its members, and that teamwork can make the final product better,” he said. “I am not sure this happens all the time in Augusta.”

Saviello could not be reached for comment Friday. He works as an environmental manager for International Paper in Jay, and opposed the Lewiston delegation this session on stricter water quality standards for the Androscoggin River. He represents District 90, which covers Avon, Phillips, Strong, Temple, New Vineyard, Wilton, and Freeman, Perkins, Salem and Washington townships.

House Majority Leader Glenn Cummings, D-Portland, said Friday he respects Saviello’s decision, and knew Saviello had concerns about the recent budget. Cummings described Saviello as “a very independent-minded” legislator, one neither fully committed to Republican or Democratic philosophies. “He’s very pragmatic, very much a free agent. That’s reflected in his record,” Cummings said.

Saviello’s switch means the House will have 75 Democrats, 73 Republicans, 1 Green and two independents. Rep. Richard Woodbury of Yarmouth is the other independent.

Losing a member won’t change Democrats’ effectiveness or the outcome of votes in the House, Cummings predicted. “The truth is we can never presume” that all Democrats will vote how the party hopes, he said. Democrats and Saviello will continue a good working relationship, Cummings predicted, adding that dropping out of the party will take pressure off Saviello, creating different expectations of him.

Saviello was elected to the House of Representatives in 2002, and re-elected in 2004. Before that he served as a director for SAD 9 and as a Wilton selectman. He lives in Wilton with his children, Allison and Ben, and dog, Baxter.

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