Republicans in the Maine Senate picked Sen. Dana Dow, of Waldoboro, as minority leader Thursday, Nov. 8.
Dow, a 67-year-old former teacher who runs a furniture store in Waldoboro, said he represents “a new face” for the party after Democrats took the Blaine House and both chambers of the Legislature in the Nov. 6 election. He is an establishment pick who is well-liked in Augusta and co-chairs the tax committee. He helped craft a compromise tax conformity plan this year.
His installation comes as Republicans map a new way forward in state politics. On Election Day, Mainers elected Attorney General Janet Mills to replace Gov. Paul LePage. Democrats won convincing majorities in the Legislature, taking 21 of 35 Senate seats and 89 of 151 House seats.
The results erased Republicans’ one-seat majority in the Senate. Their two top leaders in the upper chamber were term-limited and Assistant Senate Majority Leader Amy Volk, of Scarborough, lost to former state Rep. Linda Sanborn, D-Gorham, in a surprising outcome that seemed in doubt until Volk conceded Nov. 7.
Senate Republicans picked Dow over Rep. Jeff Timberlake, of Turner, and Rep. Matt Pouliot, of Augusta, for the leadership spot. Timberlake will be the new assistant minority leader after defeating Sen. Lisa Keim, of Dixfield, and Rep. Stacey Guerin, of Glenburn. Timberlake, Pouliot, and Guerin won election to the upper chamber Nov. 6.
Dow told reporters on Thursday that his party has lacked a “statewide agenda” and that he would prioritize K-12 education and tax reform – holding up changes that North Carolina enacted in 2013 that cut income and corporate taxes and broadened the sales tax base as an example.
He said he’d be “a new face” for the party and would aim to “get along with everybody,” saying he has good relationships with Democratic leaders, including Senate President-elect Troy Jackson, of Allagash.
“We have to redefine the Republican Party differently than it has been the last eight years,” Dow said. “I don’t think that image always came across well.”
Dow represents all of Lincoln County except Dresden, as well as Washington and Windsor.
The other senator who represents Lincoln County, Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic, will join the Democrats’ leadership team. Vitelli represents Dresden and all of Sagadahoc County.
Senate Democrats unanimously elected Vitelli assistant majority leader Thursday. Democrats elected Jackson president – subject to a vote of the full Senate on swearing-in day, Dec. 5 – and Sen. Nate Libby, of Lewiston, majority leader.
“For the past 38 years, I’ve spent my career in workforce and entrepreneurship development, helping smart, passionate individuals make their vision a reality. And I intend to continue this work in the Maine State Senate, helping make our collective vision a reality for the people of Maine,” Vitelli said in a press release.
Vitelli is a 1995 inductee of the Maine Women’s Hall of Fame. She will begin her second straight term in the Senate and third overall.