AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — State Rep. Hannah Pingree, daughter of the state’s new congresswoman-elect, won her fellow Democrats’ nomination Thursday to serve as speaker of the House during the new two-year session.
The vote by acclamation all but assures that Pingree, who is finishing a term as majority leader, will wield the gavel after the newly elected lawmakers are sworn in Dec. 3.
“It brings tears to my eyes. It’s a pretty moving situation,” U.S. Rep.-elect Chellie Pingree said after her daughter’s unanimous nomination vote. “I don’t think either of us ever thought it would turn out this way.”
The situation is unique, since no other mother and daughter have ever served in similar political roles in Maine. The senior Pingree also noted that her own election last week helped to set another mark: For the first time, the majority of a state’s congressional delegation will be women. The others include Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, and 2nd District Democrat Rep. Mike Michaud.
A former Maine state Senate leader, Chellie Pingree said some political observers have suggested that her daughter rode her coattails to State House leadership. But the newly elected 1st District congresswoman said nothing could be further from the truth because she has learned a lot about politics from her hardworking daughter.
In nominating speeches, the younger Pingree was praised for her poise and collaborative spirit as the Legislature faces a challenging session due to the declining economy and tight state finances. The 32-year-old speaker-to-be agreed in her acceptance speech that hard times would set the tone for the session.
“Our paper mill employees, our fishermen and boat builders, our doctors and lawyers and our teachers, our small businesses and our large businesses, all face an uncertain future right now. For our seniors in our state who are watching their retirements vanish, families facing foreclosure, Mainers who are losing their jobs, this is one of the most difficult times they will face in their lives. And many of these Mainers will turn to you for help,” Pingree said.
“I see our primary job this session is to find ways to invest in today’s economy while helping our citizens weather this economic storm,” said Pingree.
From her North Haven island hometown where she was one of five members of her high school class, she attended Brown University in Providence. After graduation and a fellowship in the Coro leadership in public affairs program, she worked for her mother’s unsuccessful 2002 U.S. Senate campaign, and won her first Maine House seat the same year.
In other leadership races, the Democrats elected as majority leader Rep. John Piotti of Unity, who begins his fourth term. Piotti defeated Rep. Sharon Treat of Farmingdale for the post.
In his nominating speech, Rep. Thom Watson of Bath described Piotti as the chamber’s most effective consensus builder. Piotti called himself “an unapologetic optimist” who knows how to compromise but also knows when the time for negotiation has come to an end.
“I am fully committed to seeing Democratic values shape the future of this state,” Piotti told his caucus.
In the race for assistant majority leader, or whip, second-term Rep. Seth Berry of Bowdoinham won a six-way race.
On the Republican side, the current minority leader, Rep. Josh Tardy of Newport, was re-elected on a single ballot. Rep. Philip Curtis of Madison won a three-way race for assistant GOP leader.
Pending a few recounts that can’t affect their majority, the Democrats will have 96 seats in the House and 20 in the Senate, while the GOP has 54 and 15, respectively. One independent rounds out the 151-member House roster.