Maine’s Republican Party elected former state Senate President Rick Bennett of Oxford as its new chairman Saturday following the resignation of Richard Cebra this month.

The Republican State Committee met in Augusta to choose the new GOP state chairman and a new vice chairwoman.

Cebra stepped down for personal reasons after six months on the job. He had spent eight years in the Legislature and previously served as chairman of the Cumberland County GOP Committee.

Vice Chairwoman Beth O’Connor also resigned. On Saturday, the committee elected former state Rep. Susan Morissette to replace her.

Thirty-nine of the 77 committee members, including Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s representative, announced their support for Bennett in an email obtained Friday.

LePage personally asked Bennett to run for the seat, he said.


“I think there is a general sense of, ‘Now it’s time to get down to work and build the party up and go into the next elections with a positive message and a full slate of candidates who represent Republican principals,” Bennett said after his election.

He plans to get started on fundraising for local and statewide races — including re-election campaigns for LePage and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine — and he downplayed conflicts within the party.

“In the (Republican) committee itself, coming off of the convention last year, there was a lot of concern about how the rules were being used. I think a lot of it is getting people to work together. That’s kind of old-fashioned stuff.”

His biggest job is to visit with as many people as possible, he said.

“It’s just a lot of spade work,” he said. “It’s not very interesting or glamorous to some people, but there’s a lot of just connecting with people.”

Bennett, 50, is also the chairman of GMI Ratings, a Portland-based research firm. He served as Maine Senate president in 2002.


The group said in an email to fellow committee members that Bennett “has stood up to powerful interests that seek to stifle debate and free speech” and “worked to advance the cause of liberty and freedom.”

“Not only is Rick a successful job-creating businessman, he has also been a leader as president of the Maine Senate and a member of the Maine House where he fought against out-of-control and wasteful government borrowing and spending,” the committee said.

The libertarian-leaning Republican Liberty Caucus also said Friday that it unanimously supported Bennett for chairman.

Cebra was elected to lead the party in December as it sought to move on from some setbacks, including November’s election losses and a divided party at the state convention, when supporters of Ron Paul took over the event from mainstream Republicans and elected a slate of Paul delegates to the national convention.

The party also voted Saturday to hold its 2014 state convention in Bangor.

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