Maliseets to hold fall election for new representative to Maine Legislature

David Slagger sits at his desk at the State House in Augusta, Maine, last year.
Glenn Adams | AP
David Slagger sits at his desk at the State House in Augusta, Maine, last year.
Posted June 04, 2012, at 4:06 p.m.
Last modified June 04, 2012, at 6:36 p.m.

HOULTON, Maine — The Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians will hold an election this fall to replace state Rep. David Slagger, the state’s first Maliseet legislator, who announced that he will step down in light of frustrations and limitations he found in the position.

Tribal Chief Brenda Commander said Monday that the election for a new representative will be held this fall but a date has not yet been set. She said she will talk more with members of the community before an election takes place.

The Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians was formally recognized as a tribe by the U.S. government in 1980 and in 2010 it was authorized to send a representative to the Legislature.

Slagger was sworn in four months ago during a ceremony in the governor’s cabinet room at the Maine State House. He joined representatives of Maine’s two largest tribes, the Passamaquoddy Tribe and the Penobscot Indian Nation, which have had member lawmakers at the State House for years.

Slagger was chosen after three candidates were interviewed by the Maliseet Tribal Council.

Tribal representatives to the Maine Legislature can propose legislation with a co-sponsor and serve on committees but they cannot vote on legislation. Since tribal members live throughout the state, preventing tribal representatives from voting is intended to avoid dual representation.

While Slagger acknowledged that he knew that ahead of time, he said he originally thought he could work within the restrictions.

Slagger said he changed his mind after an incident during a Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee meeting. Slagger sits on the panel.

“There was a tie vote pertaining to a bill, and I was the deciding vote,” he said last month. “I voted against the bill and the chair of the committee announced that my vote would be recorded but it didn’t count. It was quite humiliating. I was there just to look good, I guess. I can look like a Native American anywhere in Maine, but my goal is to make a difference.”

He decided to step down and conduct a privately funded campaign for House District 22, now held by Republican Rep. Stacey Guerin of Glenburn, who is running for re-election. The area includes the communities of Glenburn, Kenduskeag, Levant and part of Corinth.

Slagger, who lives in Kenduskeag, said the move is necessary in order to better represent the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians and Native Americans across the state.

Commander said she was not surprised that Slagger was upset by the restrictions but stressed that he knew ahead of time what he was facing.

Commander said that a few people have expressed interest in the position already.

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