AUGUSTA, Maine — Legislative Democrats, who appear to have strengthened their control of the State House, and Republicans mired deeper in minority status have one thing in common at the top of their to-do lists: Select leadership teams for the two-year session that opens on Dec. 3.
Caucus elections begin next week.
Holding the reins in both the Senate and House of Representatives, incoming Democratic lawmakers are expected to put Senate Majority Leader Elizabeth Mitchell of Vassalboro in as Senate president and House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree of North Haven in as speaker of the House.
Mitchell and Pingree would replace presiding officers Democratic Senate President Beth Edmonds of Freeport and Democratic House Speaker Glenn Cummings of Portland. Both Edmonds and Cummings have been termed out.
The ascensions of Mitchell and Pingree would open up the majority leader positions in both Democratic caucuses. On the Senate side, Sen. Philip Bartlett of Gorham is believed to be the consensus candidate. House Democrats could face a choice between Reps. John Piotti of Unity and Sharon Treat of Hallowell.
Senate Democrats look ready to pick Lisa Marrache of Waterville as assistant floor leader. House Democrats may confront a crowded field for the whip slot. Among those mentioned are Reps. Seth Berry of Bowdoinham, Cynthia Dill of Cape Elizabeth, Donald Pilon of Saco, Herbert Clark of Millinocket and John Tuttle of Sanford.
Both Republican leaders — Sen. Carol Weston of Montville and Rep. Josh Tardy of Newport — won re-election and their interests in continuing as caucus chiefs will influence, if not define, the eventual makeup of the GOP leadership teams.
Unofficial tallies suggest the Democrats boosted their number of seats in the 151-member House from 90 to 96. In the 35-member Senate, Democrats may have expanded their numbers from 18 to 20. Voting figures are still unofficial and recounts in some contests are likely.
The tentative composition of the new Senate would be 20 Democrats and 15 Republicans. The new House would comprise 96 Democrats, 54 Republicans and one independent.
Republican legislative leaders attribute their losses at least in part to prevailing Democratic winds.
“We got whacked, but was it really as bad as it could have been?” said Tardy, who said he will try for another term as Republican House caucus leader. He said Republicans had at least limited success in withstanding a strong Democratic grassroots campaign, particularly in the 2nd Congressional District.
For the past two years, Sen. Richard Rosen of Bucksport has served as Weston’s deputy. The House Republican assistant minority leader, Robert Crosthwaite of Ellsworth, did not seek re-election to a fourth term.
Potential candidates for a spot on the House Republican leadership team are said to include Reps. John Robinson of Raymond and Stacey Fitts of Pittsfield.
Two others who had been mentioned, Reps. Robert Walker of Lincolnville and Bonnie Gould of South Berwick, both lost their races Tuesday.
Senate Democrats are slated to caucus Monday, with House Democrats gathering Wednesday. House Republicans meet Thursday. Senate Republican plans were unclear.