The switch from being leaders of their respective parties in the House of Representatives to becoming outside observers came suddenly for Hannah Pingree and Joshua Tardy, though both say they haven’t fully broken away from government service and don’t intend to anytime soon.
In fact, according to their statements, it’s not out of the question that Mainers could someday see their names on opposite sides of a ballot for governor or Congress.
Pingree, former speaker of the House, and Tardy, former House minority leader, were first elected to the Legislature in 2002. Though they often found themselves at odds — she as a Democrat and he as a Republican — their ascendancy from freshman legislators to the height of power followed similar routes, each serving at least two terms in top leadership positions. After eight years in the Legislature, both have been forced from office by term limits.
In recent interviews, Pingree and Tardy said they’ll seek public office again, and both said they’d use their newfound time to focus on personal matters.
Pingree is sticking close to her North Haven home, running the family’s inn and restaurant and awaiting the birth of her first child, due in March.
“That’s definitely the most immediate thing on the horizon,” said Pingree. “I appreciate being able to take a break from politics. I feel like I need to sort out being a mom.”
Pingree, who is still an elected official as a member of the North Haven School Board, said a run for another state- or national-level elected office is almost certainly in her future.
“I’d love to run for office at some point in the future,” she said. “Whether that’s in three years or 10 years, I’m not sure.”
Tardy, who is a lawyer, has teamed up with well-known Augusta lobbyist and former Maine Democratic Party Chairman Jim Mitchell to launch Mitchell and Tardy Government Affairs. Mitchell and Tardy will represent a slew of heavy-hitter clients ranging from Central Maine Power Co. to Anthem-Blue Cross to the Grocery Manufacturers Association. In addition to keeping him involved in state government, his activities with the lobbying firm and a renewed focus on his private law practice will help put his finances in order. Earlier this year, a business co-owned by Tardy, Moosehead Furniture Co., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
“I have learned some lessons in this tough economy, and the Moosehead experience has been a tough one,” said Tardy. “I still believe in the small-business model, though, and I know my personal economy will change.”
Tardy, who is an active volunteer for the Maine Republican Party, said he, too, hopes to return to office, either in the Legislature or a “statewide office,” he said.
“I’m absolutely interested in another run for public office,” said Tardy. “I’m just not in a position to do that right now.”
Pingree and Tardy both said they would continue to work on public policy issues that are most important to them. Tardy said he intends to support Gov.-elect Paul LePage’s call for improving the state’s business climate. He said he would do that by representing the interests of his clients through his lobbying firm.
“They’re the job creators,” he said. “They’re the ones who have been fighting a tough business climate in Maine.”
Pingree said she hopes to continue to be an advocate for reducing toxins in the environment, which has been one of her marquee issues. As a pregnant woman now and mother of an infant in a few months, Pingree said she could stand as an example of who is vulnerable to toxins. She said she also would be an active advocate for improving the ferry service between North Haven and the mainland.
“There are some issues I feel very passionate about,” she said. “If there are major changes proposed in the Legislature about things that I care about, I’ll be an active citizen.”
Both Tardy and Pingree acknowledged that major changes are in store for state government after last month’s historic victories for Republicans. While Pingree said she thought a national change in ideology helped alter the political landscape in Maine, Tardy said he saw the election as an indication that Mainers weren’t satisfied with the direction of state government.
“This is the perfect opportunity for Republican initiatives to become part of the conversation, and not coming from the minority party,” he said. “As soon as you become the majority for the first time in three decades, you have the full responsibility of governance.”
“Obviously I was disappointed in the results of the election, but I feel like we’ve seen the political pendulum go back and forth quite a bit in this country,” she said. “It’s now up to the Republicans to prove that they can govern.”