AUGUSTA – Newly elected Maine legislators on Tuesday began to organize for the coming two-year session as Senate Republicans, again narrowly in the minority, elected their two floor leaders.
Republicans elected Sen. Carol Weston of Montville as leader and Sen. Richard Rosen of Bucksport as assistant floor leader. Weston, who begins her third Senate term after serving two in the House, held the assistant’s spot last session.
Weston defeated Sen. Richard Nass of Acton for minority leader. She succeeds Sen. Paul Davis of Sangerville, who completed his fourth consecutive term and was forced out by term limits.
Weston and other senators made repeated references during their State House caucus to Republicans’ trouncing last week in congressional and many statehouse races across the country. Given GOP losses elsewhere, Weston said Maine Republicans should be proud to have captured 17 Senate seats to the Democrats’ 18.
“It was a big fight and a long race,” said Weston, who called for caucus unity and “policy working groups” to more carefully shape and put the party seal on legislation.
Republicans also acknowledged challenges ahead, saying they will have to negotiate with a strong slate of Senate Democratic leaders who will be elected during their caucus Sunday. With one more seat than they occupied last session, the GOP will be in a position to negotiate for more influence, such as in committee assignments.
“We face a strong headwind,” said Rosen, who is beginning his second Senate term following three in the House.
In his appeal for support, Nass told senators that even though elections were only last week, they should begin to rebuild from the party’s losses at the polls.
“Campaign 2008 should start now,” Nass said.
The Senate GOP gathering started a series of party leadership caucuses leading up to the formal opening of the 2007-08 session Dec. 6.
House Democrats, who have an 89-60 edge over Republicans, with two independents also elected, elect their leaders on Wednesday.