Gardiner representative sees Democratic drift and leaves party

Posted July 19, 2012, at 7:19 p.m.
Last modified July 19, 2012, at 8 p.m.
Stephen Hanley
Stephen Hanley

AUGUSTA, Maine — A state representative from Gardiner has dropped out of the Democratic party, slightly shifting the balance of power in the Maine Legislature but not upsetting the political order.

Rep. Stephen Hanley said he withdrew from the Democratic party at the beginning of July after a lifetime as a Democrat. He’s now unenrolled.

“They’ve just drifted farther and farther to the left,” Hanley said of the Democrats. “I’m just a middle-of-the-road guy.”

Hanley’s change in party affiliation doesn’t have major implications. It doesn’t affect which party controls the Maine House, and it doesn’t directly affect Democrats’ efforts to regain control of the chamber or Republicans’ efforts to retain it.

After Hanley’s switch, the Maine House has 77 Republicans, 70 Democrats and two unenrolled members. The chamber has two vacant seats.

On the political end, Hanley is barred from running for re-election to his seat due to term limits. Hanley is serving his fourth term in the House. Democrat Phillip Barter and Republican Daniel Bates are running to replace him.

Hanley didn’t cite a specific policy disagreement with Democrats and said he wasn’t interested in joining the Republican party, either.

“They’re getting too mean-spirited,” he said of the parties. “You can’t disagree with them. It’s not what we need, and it’s not what I want to be part of.”

Hanley said he waited until after the legislative session had concluded to withdraw from the Democratic party.

“There’s no animosity toward the people of the party,” Hanley said.

Rep. Emily Cain, the House Democratic leader, said she enjoyed serving with Hanley in the Democratic caucus and that she saw the move as a personal, rather than political, one.

“We haven’t always agreed, and that’s completely OK,” said Cain, of Orono. “He’s brought an important perspective to the Democratic caucus and the Legislature.”

“If we were to reconvene for some reason, Steve would be welcome in the Democratic caucus,” Cain added. “He has a lot of relationships there and friendships.”

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