WATERVILLE – Promising to lead through a consensus-based philosophy, Betheda G. Edmonds of Freeport was elected Tuesday night as the next president of the Maine Senate.
Democrats continue to hold a narrow 18-17 margin over Republicans and Edmonds will need GOP support to enact legislation requiring two-thirds approval. Although she emphasized that she always consulted others when attempting to choose “the correct position” on an issue, she did not mention Republicans by name.
“I find that position by seeking the advice and the counsel of all the members of my caucus and all the folks that I can reach out and talk to in the House, the governor’s office and [others],” she said. “When I find a good path, I stick to it and I stick to it come hell or high water – and I think we’re going to need that.”
Edmonds won the second ballot over Sen. John L. Martin of Eagle Lake. Both candidates received more votes than the third presidential aspirant, Sen. Lynn Bromley of South Portland.
Sen. Michael Brennan of Portland fended off a bid by former Maine House Speaker Elizabeth Mitchell to become Senate majority leader. Sen. Kenneth Gagnon of Waterville brushed off a challenge from Sen. John Nutting of Leeds and will hold the assistant majority leader or whip post for a second two-year term.
The elections effectively give most of the majority legislative leadership power in the Maine Legislature to southern Maine lawmakers. Incoming House Speaker John Richardson, House Majority Leader Glenn Cummings, Assistant House Majority Leader Robert Duplessie, Edmonds, and Brennan are all from Cumberland County.
“It’s unfortunate, I would have liked to have seen a little more geographical diversity,” said incoming Sen. Joseph Perry of Bangor. “But people in southern Maine do recognize there are some dire needs in northern and eastern Maine. With an 18-17 split, I’m sure those areas will get their share of attention.”
Earlier Tuesday in Manchester, House Republicans elected a new team determined to secure a respected place at the legislative negotiations table. Meeting at the Augusta Country Club, House Republicans elevated Rep. David Bowles, the current assistant minority party leader from Sanford, to incoming minority leader. He replaces Rep. Joe Bruno of Raymond, who was barred from seeking re-election to the House due to term limits.
Bowles said that while Republicans may remain the minority party in the House, the people of Maine still expect a consensus approach to governing. He hoped that when the 122nd Legislature convenes on Dec. 1, it can forge a new path that doesn’t lead to a repeat of this year’s divisive supplemental budget battle passed by majority Democrats.
“The people and our caucus want the Legislature to work together toward common goals,” Bowles said. “It’s fair to say that we need to see the Democrats reaching out to be more receptive to our ideas. We’re going to go in with a positive attitude.”
The House Republicans chose second-term Rep. Joshua Tardy of Newport to succeed Bowles as assistant minority leader. Tardy, 36, and Bowles, 60, have had prior associations on campaigns and during last year’s redistricting sessions. Tardy fended off a challenge from Rep. Darlene Curley, of Scarborough. He said his experience as a lawyer and Bowles’ background as a small-business owner in Sanford provided an interesting foundation for their new partnership.
“Dave is a loyal trouper to his cause and I’m looking forward to help him communicate with the other side of the aisle and in the Baldacci administration where I have a lot of friends,” Tardy said. “Dave and I have a style which says we’re open for business. It’s up to [the Democrats] to decide whether they want to accept the invitation or not.”
Pending final election recounts, Democrats hold an unofficial 76-73 edge over Republicans in the House, which also includes one Green Independent Party member and one representative not enrolled in a party. The need to claim the majority in 2006 was a consistent theme in the race between Bowles and H. Sawin Millett, a Waterford legislator serving his second consecutive term.