Lawmakers to make picks for top Maine offices

Posted Dec. 02, 2008, at 12:29 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The three-way race for one of the state’s most prominent public offices, attorney general, will be decided Tuesday as the newly elected Legislature chooses a nominee to head the $30 million department that represents the state in legal matters.

Even before they are sworn into office, the Democratic House and Senate members-to-be will engage in high State House drama as they stand behind one of the contestants for the job: Sean Faircloth of Bangor, Janet Mills of Farmington or John Brautigam of Falmouth. Maine is one of few states in which the attorney general is not popularly elected.

Faircloth, currently the assistant House majority leader or whip, and Brautigam are finishing terms in the House. Mills, a former district attorney in western Maine, was re-elected to the House last month. Because Democrats have majorities in both the House and Senate, Tuesday’s nominee is virtually assured of election by the full Legislature after it’s sworn in Wednesday.

All three have been lobbying lawmakers aggressively in hopes of landing the job, and professing their experience in law as qualifications. State law sets a pay range for attorney general from $72,675 to $105,768. The attorney general’s pay is set by Legislative Council.

Faircloth, a former assistant attorney general, has served one Senate term and four in the House. He has been working as an assistant professor of justice studies at University College of Bangor.

Brautigam, also a former assistant attorney general, successfully argued the case for the state’s pioneering Maine RX law aimed at driving down prescription drug prices before the U.S. Supreme Court. A former lawyer with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, Brautigam is completing his second House term.

Mills, who has completed three House terms and would begin her fourth if she does not prevail in Tuesday’s voting, is also a former assistant attorney general. She has also conducted a private law practice in addition to serving as prosecutor for Franklin, Oxford and Androscoggin counties.

The new attorney general will succeed G. Steven Rowe, who is completing his fourth, two-year term, the maximum allowed under Maine’s term-limits law.

Democrats have already nominated House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree of North Haven to serve as speaker during the 2009-10 session. Republicans say they do not expect to nominate a candidate for speaker. But they left open the possibility they would advance candidates for attorney general and the other high-profile offices legislators must fill: secretary of state, treasurer and auditor.

The three Democratic incumbents faced no known challengers from their own party, meaning they too were virtually assured of re-election by the new Legislature even if they face token GOP opposition.

Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap of Old Town would begin his third term as head of the agency that oversees elections and motor vehicle laws. Treasurer David Lemoine would also begin his third two-year term. State Auditor Neria Douglass is going for her second, four-year term.

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