LEWISTON — Back in 1898, the frustrated owner of a weekly publication called the Lisbon Enterprise recognized that “for scheming politicians, Lewiston has the medal.”

Two decades later, an unnamed Auburn Republican told the Lewiston Daily Sun that “Lewiston is a hotbed of politics and politicians. That town is alive with ‘em.”

It turns out the city’s detractors had a point.

Lewiston has over the years shown a surprising ability to put those who were born or lived in the city into powerful positions. It has produced 15 politicians with obvious clout: governors, U.S. senators and members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Two of them are on the ballot again next month: Republican gubernatorial hopeful Paul LePage, a native who has twice served as governor in the past, and U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a two-term Democrat who lives in Lewiston.

Let’s take a tour through Lewiston’s past and present to discover more about the city men — and they have all been men — who won election to high public office.


Since two of them are on the campaign trail now, it’s probably best not to try to rank them on any sort of scale, such as from best to worst, and simply consider each of them sequentially based on their birth dates.

And with that, here are Lewiston’s leading lawmakers:


It’s probably no accident that Lewiston’s first political dynasty began in the busy tavern kept by John Herrick at Barker’s Mill, a place famous for lively conversation over a mug of cider or a little something stronger.

Herrick Tavern as it appeared in 1812. Lewiston Evening Journal

The building still stands at 901 Main St., though it has long since ceased serving as a gathering spot.

Herrick, one of the city’s first settlers, became chairman of Lewiston’s Board of Selectmen, moderated the first town meeting and served as the community’s representative at the State House in Boston in those years before Maine split off from Massachusetts.


His son Ebenezer, probably born in Bowdoinham in 1785, moved to Lewiston a decade later and became a lawyer.

He was active in the General Court in Boston when he returned to help write Maine’s Constitution in 1819, just before the Pine Tree State gained official status. John Herrick was also a delegate to the constitutional convention in Portland.

Ebenezer Herrick married Hannah Mulloy of Litchfield, whose father had become a Mason in Gen. George Washington’s tent at Valley Forge. They had seven children together.

Once Maine became a state in 1820, Ebenezer ran for Congress and logged three terms representing Lewiston in the U.S. House, from 1821 to 1827, when he opted not to run for reelection. He also served a couple stints in the state Senate.

His family home, at 886 Main St., remains standing. Hannah Herrick died in New York City in 1837, with her obituary mentioning that she formerly lived in Lewiston. The ex-congressman died two years later in Lewiston at age 54 and is buried in the Old Herrick Cemetery nearby.



Born in 1812 in Lewiston the son of Ebenezer and Hannah, Anson Herrick attended public schools in town and likely got a fair amount of his education listening to his well-known father talk about politics with friends and family.

U.S. Rep. Anson Herrick captured in a Civil War-era photo by Matthew Brady. U.S. National Archives and Record Administration

He learned “the art of printing,” perhaps in Hallowell.

His congressional biography claims Herrick “established the Citizen at Wiscasset, Maine, in 1833,” but a paper with that name is only known to have been printed in Wiscasset from 1828 to 1830.

In any case, Herrick moved to New York City in 1836 and never returned. He opened another newspaper, the New York Atlas, which pushed workers’ rights, and operated it for the rest of his life. Initially, it published once a week on Sundays, containing such memorable writing as P.T. Barnum’s correspondence from Europe, Walt Whitman’s advice on health and Bret Harte’s first known poem.

He also co-founded the New York Aurora, a Democratic daily that hired Whitman as its editor. Herrick fired the not-yet-famous poet after declaring he was “the laziest fellow who ever undertook to edit a city paper,” according to The Walt Whitman Archive.

Herrick’s interest in politics was obvious.


As early as 1852, he ran unsuccessfully for a congressional seat in New York. The New Orleans Weekly Delta’s New York correspondent called him “an able man” who “may be elected in defiance of the will of Tammany Hall,” a political machine that was only beginning to wield power.

Herrick soon ended up on New York’s Board of Alderman, apparently having made peace with Tammany leaders. The Charleston Daily Courier in South Carolina dismissed him at the time as so corrupt that he offered to kill any story in his papers for $500.

Corrupt or not, Herrick became a naval storekeeper for the port of New York, a lucrative post, and at the height of the Civil War got elected as a pro-war Democrat in 1862.

The London Standard, which had no stake in America’s political games, insisted that Herrick edited “a scurrilous Sunday paper” and had been proven to take bribes. “He was tried,” the paper said, ”but escaped the state prison” somehow and wound up in Congress.

“Now that the corrupt politicians have taken the field,” the paper said, Herrick “will represent a part of the commons of the world.”

Herrick served in office until just before the war’s end in 1865 after losing a reelection bid. He received wide acclaim for changing his mind in his last months in office to endorse a constitutional amendment to ban slavery.


Like his father, though, Herrick did not live a long time. He died at 56 in New York City.


Born in 1813 to one of the most prominent families in those early days in Lewiston, Alonzo Garcelon played a big role in transforming a small town into a thriving city.

Gov. Alonzo Garcelon Maine State Museum

He helped found Bates College, the Lewiston Evening Journal, the Central Maine Medical Society and a host of other worthwhile ventures that shaped the community for most of the 19th century.

Garcelon jumped into politics in 1853, serving in the Maine House of Representatives, followed by a stint in the Maine Senate. He served as Maine’s surgeon general during the Civil War.

While serving as surgeon general, Garcelon wrote to Gov. Israel Washburn, “May our Rulers not falter for the people are with them in this great struggle of Liberty against Slavery.”


A Democrat in the post-war era, when Maine tilted sharply Republican, Garcelon lost a congressional election but won a term as Lewiston’s mayor. In 1878, he ran for governor and won, with a push from the Legislature after none of the candidates won a majority.

Though few had serious gripes with Garcelon’s time as governor, he came in a distant third in a reelection bid in yet another three-way finish – but he didn’t want to leave office, citing the uncertain legality of the situation. Crowds gathered at the State House, with weapons brandished by some.

Ultimately, though, after the intervention of Civil War hero Joshua Chamberlain, a former governor himself, Garcelon stepped down and devoted the rest of long life to medicine. He died in 1906.

Arthur G. Staples, a longtime editor of the Journal, recalled Garcelon as “somewhat awesome in a way and eternally busy.”

“He feared nothing and said what he had in mind,” Staples said, adding the “remarkable man” was also a great physician.

Garcelon’s memory is preserved in part by Garcelon Field at Bates College, where many sporting contests are played.


Matthew Brady, one of America’s most famous photographers, took this shot of U.S. Sen. William Frye in Washington, D.C. Library of Congress


For half a century, Republican William Frye held positions of power that ultimately concluded with a 15-year stint as the president pro tempore of the U.S. Senate, a post he held until his death in 1911.

U.S. Sen. William Frye’s house on Main Street in 1893. City of Lewiston

Frye, born in Lewiston in 1831, twice became its mayor starting in 1866, then Maine’s attorney general in 1867.

A natural orator, he won election from Lewiston to the U.S. House in 1871, a job he held for a decade, and then secured one of Maine’s U.S. Senate positions for the rest of his life, logging more than three decades as a senator.

U.S. Sen. Chauncey Depew of New York said that Frye had the rare ability to win most every debate.

“He was the only senator who could generally carry the Senate with him for or against a measure,” Depew recalled in his memoirs.


“People never faltered in their loyalty and devotion to him, even to his dying day,” observed U.S. Rep. Daniel McGillicuddy, a Lewiston Democrat.

McGillicuddy said Frye never made enemies, that he was “an optimist of the best type, with faith in his fellow man and confidence in the future of his country.”

A story repeated in the Lewiston Evening Journal said that William McKinley asked him in 1900 to be the party’s vice presidential candidate.

“No,” Frye responded.

McKinley told him that “no man is better fitted to fill that place than you, senator.”

“I will not take the chance,” Frye declared, “for I would not be president if it were handed to me on a plate of gold. In fact, I would rather be senator from Maine than to occupy any office in the gift of the president or the people.”



Born in Durham in 1832, Nelson Dingley Jr. attended Dartmouth College and began writing for the Lewiston Falls Journal, the paper Garcelon helped get off the ground, in 1847. A decade after the paper started publishing, Dingley bought it.

It proved a masterful stroke. As owner of the Republican-oriented newspaper, he and later his younger brother Frank built the Journal into a regional powerhouse with a national reputation. In those days, running a newspaper often proved a good way to find success in politics as well.

An 1899 portrait of Nelson Dingley Jr. of Lewiston by artist D.D. Coombs. Morphy Auctions

It certainly did for Dingley, propelled by his journalistic renown into the Governor’s Office in 1874 and then to the U.S. House in 1881, a position he held until his death in 1899.

A serious and thoughtful man, Dingley chaired the powerful Ways and Means Committee, which set taxes and tariffs, and pushed through a controversial tariff hike in 1897 as well as adopting a provision to give presidents the authority to set rates as part of their trade negotiations with other nations.

“He had great influence, great prestige,” the Lewiston Daily Sun later noted. It said, though, his “perplexing study of vexatious details” of the tariff likely killed him.


The paper bemoaned Dingley’s focus of the time, insisting that instead of “taking his country back to the Middle Ages,” he could at that very moment have joined House Speaker Thomas Reed, also of Maine, to prevent an imperialist war with Spain and secure “a glorious place” in American history by preserving the peace.

Others, though, saw Dingley as a giant.

The Rev. W.H. Ramsey of Farmington’s Unitarian church told the Journal that Dingley “had the respect and esteem” of every constituent and “was a fine example of what a typical American citizen ought to be.”

“Mr. Dingley carries the cup of honor and virtue unshaken and unspilled through the storms and calms of political life for nearly 40 years,” Ramsey said, thanking God “for giving us a man” so noble.


Born in 1859 to Irish immigrants in Lewiston, Daniel “D.J.” McGillicuddy attended Bates College but got his degree from Bowdoin College. He began practicing law in Lewiston in 1881 at the age of 22.


Daniel McGillicuddy Library of Congress

A Democrat in a Republican-leaning city, McGillicuddy managed to win election as mayor three times and claimed a state House seat at age 25 before losing two congressional races.

But even in defeat, his skills were widely recognized.

The Journal in 1906 called McGillicuddy his party’s strongest “orator, humorist and exponent of real democratic ideas” as it analyzed his chances in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District.

“He would make a whirlwind campaign and would be as entertaining a personality in Congress as any whirlwind orator who ever entered that leveling aggregation,” the paper said.

In 1910, he won a U.S. House seat and held it for three terms. His defeat in 1916 surprised him.

“The election here was certainly a surprise to all of us. The Republicans expected nothing of that sort. There was nothing in the campaign to indicate such a landslide,” McGillicuddy wrote to Josephus Daniels, secretary of the U.S. Navy.


“The Progressives went over to the Republicans almost in a body, and in addition the Republicans got out their stay-at-home vote almost to a man. This latter was unprecedented,” the defeated congressman wrote. “I cannot, for the life of me, see what it was that brought out in such a phenomenal way” so many Republican votes.

“Of course, they had all the money they wanted and I am sure they used it lavishly. They bought everything they could lay their hands on and paid effective workers doing missionary work on the quiet for the purpose of getting out the stay-at-home vote. In addition, they promised everything to the Progressives,” McGillicuddy wrote.

“They have won, but in my judgment it is a dearly bought victory. It will be utterly impossible for them to carry out the barters and trades which they have made,” he added.

After losing his House seat, he held a position on the Democratic National Committee for the rest of his life. He died in 1936.

Looking back on his life in 1936, the Journal recognized that McGillicuddy had been “the most outstanding figure” among Maine Democrats for many years and “a natural politician if ever there was one.”



When Louis Brann ran for governor in 1932, he took out an advertisement in the Lewiston Daily Sun urging voters to give him the chance.

“Not in over 50 years, a governor from Lewiston and Auburn,” a tagline insisted, with the usual imprecision of politicians running for office.

Louis Brann in 1925 Maine Historical Society

Brann, born in 1876 in Madison, grew up in Gardiner and didn’t move to Lewiston until he set up a legal practice in 1902. A Democrat, he served as mayor, held a state House seat for a term and twice won election as governor.

No other Democrat since the Civil War had ever won reelection as governor.

His popularity was spurred by his dedication to serving as Maine’s “Great Publicist,” touting the state’s vacation opportunities at every turn and bringing celebrities such as singer Rudy Vallee to the Pine Tree State to advertise its attractions.

The Portland Evening Express said Brann had “most of the attributes common to good salesmen and good politicians. He dressed smartly, could remember names as well as faces, was genuinely interested in people and their problems, listened well and talked well.”


Brann “also was always ready to conciliate, a trait that helped him enormously in dealing with a predominantly Republican legislature and a wholly Republican Executive Council.”

In 1936, he took on U.S. Sen. Wallace White, a Republican from Lewiston, and lost his bid to go to Washington. He later lost races to return to the Blaine House and a congressional contest in 1942. He died in 1948.

U.S. Sen. Wallace White Library of Congress


A grandson of U.S. Sen. William Frye, born in Lewiston in 1877, the quiet, unassuming Wallace White attended city schools before graduating from Bowdoin College. He thought about hitching along afterward in 1899 with football players from Harvard and Yale universities planning to tour England.

Frye took him aside and told him, “Wallace, it’s about time you decided to earn a living for yourself and not go junketing around Europe on somebody else’s money.”

His grandson fired back a question: “What about a job?


Next thing you know, White served as an assistant clerk for Frye’s Commerce Committee on Capitol Hill.

White had a brief legal career in Lewiston, where he won a City Council seat, before leaping fully into politics by defeating Democrat Daniel McGillicuddy to capture Maine’s 2nd District Congressional District for the Republicans. He held the seat until 1931, pushing through the first law governing radio along the way, then moved on to the U.S. Senate.

White became the GOP leader of the Senate and served as its majority leader when the Republicans took control of the Senate after the 1946 election. While he held the title, he did not hold anything close to the power the office holder has wielded in recent decades.

Columnist Drew Pearson observed at the time that White held the position, he wrote, but U.S. Sen. Robert Taft, an Ohio Republican, pulled the strings.

“Everybody likes White,” noted author John Gunther, another Washington insider. “Few people pay much attention to him.”

U.S. Sen. Arthur Vandenburg, a powerhouse Massachusetts Republican, called White “a mild-mannered man, ever considerate, and self-effacing in modesty.”


He died in 1952.


Born in Lewiston in 1904, Payne played pickup baseball games in a lot on the edge of town with Mayor Louis Brann — and told the politician that he, too, would be mayor someday.

Frederick Payne Maine State Museum

As a youngster in town, Payne worked odds jobs as a grocery clerk, theater usher and newsboy who delivered copies of the Lewiston Evening Journal along College Street. He headed off to business college in Boston after graduating from high school in Lewiston.

Payne ended up in Augusta, where he served as mayor, then volunteered to fight in World War II, rising to become a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Air Force by war’s end.

He got elected governor in 1948, with help from the Journal, which called him “Lewiston born, Lewiston educated” and downplayed his move to Augusta as an adult. He pushed through a new sales tax and created a development commission for Maine while in office.


The Lewiston Daily Sun said Payne proved “an outstanding orator who could hold an audience spellbound.”

Payne won reelection two years later and then captured a U.S. Senate seat by defeating incumbent U.S. Sen. Owen Brewster in a legendarily rough primary and then a Democratic foe in the general election.

During his time in the Senate, Payne took aim at, of all things, switchblades.

Worried about rising gang violence, Payne suggested that immigrants with switchblades might be the cause.

“Isn’t it true that this type of knife, switchblade knife, in its several different forms, was developed, actually, abroad, and was developed by the so-called scum, if you want to call it, or the group who are always involved in crime?” Payne asked during one hearing held before the passage of the Switchblade Knife Act of 1958.

Senators like Payne hoped that clamping down on switchblades would decrease gang violence. It caused gang members to buy guns instead.


But he also pushed an international study of the potential impact of nuclear war, fought for protection of small companies facing foreign competition and pressed for better highway safety measures.

He lost a reelection bid in 1958 to Democrat Edmund Muskie. When Payne died in 1978, Muskie called him “an honorable opponent” who stuck to the issues and “a distinguished political leader and dedicated servant to the people of Maine.”


Frank Coffin, a Lewiston native, came from a family steeped in politics. His grandmother Maude Morey was the first woman to win a state House seat from Lewiston and his grandfather Frank Morey was active in the community in many ways, including as a trustee at Bates College.

Frank Coffin U.S. Government Printing Office

Coffin, born in 1919, earned his Bates degree in 1940, served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and secured a law degree at Harvard University after the war.

A friend of then-Gov. Edmund Muskie, Coffin became the state Democratic Party chair and then ran for a U.S. House seat in Lewiston in 1956. He won reelection two years later.


It was a decade of renewal for Maine Democrats, who had long been on the ropes, as Muskie and Coffin sparked new life into the old party, breaking the Republicans’ grip on Maine that had held for generations.

But the GOP had plenty of life even so. When Coffin opted to run for governor in 1960, he came up short.

Coffin returned to his legal career until President Lyndon Johnson tapped him for a judgeship. He remained an active federal judge from 1965 until his death in 2009.


William Hathaway, born in Massachusetts in 1924, served on B-24s in Europe during World War II, where his plane was shot down on his 13th mission. He wound up as a prisoner.

William Hathaway U.S. Senate Historical Office

After the war, Hathaway attended Harvard University and its law school before rejecting the lure of big city firms to move to Lewiston to take a job as an assistant attorney for Androscoggin County.


An amiable, engaging man, Hathaway proved a hit on the campaign trail when he sought election to a U.S. House seat from Lewiston in 1964, a post he kept until he took on the legendary Maine Republican Margaret Chase Smith for her U.S. Senate seat in 1972.

Smith, who hadn’t faced a serious challenger in years, struck many voters as out-of-touch. Hathaway beat her at the polls in an upset.

Years later, Hathaway said his own mother told him after the victory, “You ought to be ashamed of yourself.”

During his time in the Senate, Hathaway proved one of its most liberal members, voting against the appointment of U.S. Rep. Gerald Ford to fill a vacancy in the vice presidency and pushing for the admission of women to the military service academies.

Hathaway lost his reelection bid in 1978 to Republican William Cohen and lived out his life in the nation’s capital, where he died in 2013.



Lewiston’s James Longley caught the attention of political observers across the country in 1974 when he rounded up 40% of the vote as an independent in a five-way gubernatorial election to win the state’s top job, outpacing second-place finisher George Mitchell.

Gov. James Longley State of Maine

Mitchell, his first bid for elected office, said Longley ran an excellent campaign that tapped into “widespread distrust and cynicism” about politics in the wake of the Watergate scandal.

Born in 1924 in Lewiston, Longley, a star athlete, graduated from Lewiston High School before studying at Bowdoin College, where he served as quarterback of its football team and president of its student body.

As a lawyer and insurance agent in Lewiston, Longley built a solid career that helped land him a position to root out inefficiency in state government. It proved the foundation of his political success.

His campaign slogan — “Think About It!” — must have resonated with Mainers ready to give an independent a chance. Longley’s election marked the first time in four decades that voters in any state chose a governor who wasn’t nominated by the Democrats or Republicans.

When he took office, Longley axed the traditional ball at his inauguration, a symbol of the common touch he sought.


As governor, Longley often clashed with legislators, issued record numbers of vetoes and retained his popularity with voters. Polls showed him doing well, but he did not seek reelection because he promised to serve only one term.

It turned out that cancer killed him in 1980, a year after he left office.

“He kept his promises to Maine and he left all of us with an ideal that we must strive to fulfill,” U.S. Sen. William Cohen said following Longley’s death.


Born in 1948, Paul LePage grew up in rough circumstances in a family shattered by poverty in the Little Canada section of Lewiston.

At least two of his boyhood homes were tenement apartments that no longer exist just downhill from the old Bates Mill, in a flood-prone section that caught every whiff from the stinking Androscoggin River in the days before efforts to clean it up got serious.


After college, LePage moved to Waterville, became its mayor, and then logged two controversy-filled terms as Maine’s governor, a post he had to leave in 2018 because of term limits.

LePage, after a short stint of living in Florida, returned to Maine to try to win the governor’s office again. He faces Democratic incumbent Janet Mills and independent Sam Hunkler in the Nov. 8 general election.


Born in Lewiston in 1951, James Longley Jr. grew up in the city. He wound up earning a law degree from Georgetown University while his father served as governor.

The younger Longley took his first job as a part-time assistant prosecutor for Janet Mills, who was then the county district attorney.

After working as a lawyer in Lewiston for a time, Longley shifted his legal work to Portland, where he successfully ran for a U.S. House seat in 1994 that he could not retain in a more Democratic-leaning election two years later. No Republican has won the 1st District seat since.


Longley made one more stab at elected office, running for governor in 1998. Angus King, an incumbent independent, beat him.


Born in 1982, Leeds native Jared Golden moved to Lewiston to attend Bates College and opted to stay after graduation.

He won a state House seat in 2014. In 2018, the Democrat defeated incumbent U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican, to become the 2nd District’s congressman, a position he’s held since. His narrow victory was the first in a federal election to use ranked-choice voting.

On this year’s ballot, Golden again faces Poliquin, and independent Tiffany Bond.

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