May 21, 2019

State Republicans elect national committeewoman

HALLOWELL — The Republican State Committee settled a four-way contest on the third ballot and elected a former aide to former Sen. William Cohen as its new national committeewoman.

Jan Martens Staples of Portland succeeds veteran Doris Russell of Castine, who is stepping down after nearly 12 years as one of Maine’s delegates to the Republican National Committee.

Russell, resigning at midterm, nominated Staples and praised her as an experienced party activist who could represent Maine with “a sense of humor and common sense.”

Staples told the state committee Saturday she envisioned a revitalized party that could achieve majority status in the Legislature.

She said a resurgent GOP would promote high-quality education and a competitive business climate, ensure that property rights are secure and that those who work with natural resources are recognized for their commitment to conservation.

Staples said the Republican Party should express compassion for those in real need and encourage economic growth around the state, including the northern and Down East parts of Maine.

At the same time, she expressed confidence in being able to be a voice for the state party on the national GOP council as one “willing to take some political heat.”

In the final voting, Staples edged the vice chairman of the state party, Kathy Watson of Pittsfield, 36-33.

Eliminated in earlier balloting were Josephine Robbins of Eliot and Ann Robinson of Lewiston.

Staples worked on former Sen. William Cohen’s congressional and political staffs from 1990 to 1996, and currently serves as executive director of the Cohen Center Foundation.

In a letter to committee members in advance of Saturday’s vote, Staples said if chosen she hoped to continue leading the party’s Nuts & Bolts-Victory ’98 Project — an initiative she volunteered to head after the last statewide elections.

“After the disappointments of the 1996 election, many of us recognized that, though we had raised record amounts of money, it was not enough.

“I — like you — know that campaigns, particularly local campaigns, can be won or lost on the ground — with volunteer efforts.

“I became concerned that we talked a lot about the importance of grass roots, but we didn’t actually do grass roots very effectively,” she wrote.

Russell, who was first elected as Maine’s national committeewoman in December 1986, held the post of vice chairman of the state party in the mid-1980s and as a delegate to Republican National Conventions has served on the committees on rules and resolutions.

She also served on the Republican National Committee executive council.

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