Maine lawmakers to weigh 72 nominations by LePage

Posted Sept. 02, 2012, at 3:18 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A judicial appointment for a top aide to Gov. Paul LePage stands out on the list of more than 70 nominations by the governor that lawmakers are expected to take up this week.

Daniel Billings, a longtime Republican insider and current chief legal counsel to LePage, faces a review by the Judiciary Committee and a confirmation vote by the Senate on his nomination to be District Court judge. Ten other judicial appointments and reappointments will also be considered, including reappointments of two supreme court justices, Donald Alexander and Warren Silver.

While Billings is expected to have a thorough review in committee, key legislators say neither he nor any of the other nominees is expected to fall short of confirmation when the final votes are taken.

“Dan will have a series of tough questions about how do you shift from an extreme partisan career to being in touch with all sides, being able to listen to and hear all sides without bias,” said Rep. Emily Cain of Orono, the House Democratic leader.

But Cain added that she’d worked with Billings on legislative issues such as domestic violence and found him to be fair and open. “I believe Dan will be and can be an excellent judge,” she said.

Senate Democratic Leader Barry Hobbins of Saco, who plans to return to Maine from the Democratic National Convention for the session, agreed. “The judicial appointments were very good appointments,” he said.

Thirteen committees will review 72 nominees in all for those and other state boards, commissions and executive posts on Tuesday and Wednesday before making recommendations to the Senate, which will hold confirmation votes Thursday. Committees hold considerable sway in the process because it takes a two-thirds Senate vote to overturn their recommendations.

“We have confidence in all of our nominees and are looking forward to their confirmation,” said LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett.

Sharp questioning could also be in store for William Beardsley, former commissioner of the Conservation Department who has been nominated for the state Board of Education.

The questions would stem from events during Beardsley’s two decades as president of Husson University in Bangor. During his tenure, campus chaplain Robert Carlson was investigated for sexual abuse of minors. Carlson committed suicide last November. Committee members may want to know more about what Beardsley knew at the time the allegations were made known.

Other nominees for the Board of Education include Peter Geiger of Lewiston, executive vice president of the business that publishes the “Farmer’s Almanac,” who was also on LePage’s transition team after he was elected governor in 2010. Ande Smith of North Yarmouth is the third board nominee.

Also among the nominees are Col. James Campbell, acting adjutant general of the Maine National Guard, as commissioner of the Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management. Lawmakers will review another Cabinet-level nomination, Jeanne Paquette as labor commissioner.

John Gallagher of Bath will be considered for director of the Maine State Housing Authority. His nomination follows last March’s ouster of director Dale McCormick, a Democrat, following a barrage of Republican criticism of her leadership.

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