Who are Maine’s ‘royal’ families?

Posted July 26, 2013, at 2:54 p.m.
Last modified July 27, 2013, at 6:05 a.m.

Monday’s birth of Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge, third in line to Great Britain’s throne, has reignited our fascination with royalty on this side of the Atlantic.

Our nation was founded so we could escape the rule of the throne, but we’ve remained captivated by England’s royal family. Royalty, meanwhile, has survived in this country in its own right.

Dynasties have dominated American political history virtually from the start. The first son of an American president, John Quincy Adams, became president himself.

Maine hasn’t had a political family like the Kennedys (unless you count the Bush family, whose family compound is in Kennebunkport), but dynasties — that is to say, families steeped in public service — have been ever-present since the Pine Tree State split from Massachusetts in 1820.

What is, perhaps, Maine’s earliest political dynasty spanned five states: John Chandler, one of Maine’s first two U.S. senators (1820-1829), represented Massachusetts in Congress before Maine split off. Brother Thomas represented New Hampshire in Congress from 1829 to 1833. Nephew Zachariah represented Michigan in the Senate before President Ulysses S. Grant appointed him Secretary of the Interior.

Back in Maine, Chandler relatives Eugene and Frederick Hale were elected to the U.S. Senate — Eugene served from 1881 to 1911 and son Frederick (Zachariah’s grandson) from 1917 to 1941. Frederick’s cousin, Robert, became speaker of the Maine House and represented Maine’s 1st District in Congress from 1943 to 1959. More recently, Zachariah’s great-great-grandnephew, Rodney Chandler, represented Washington in the U.S. House from 1983 to 1993.

Whether or not it goes against core American values, U.S. voters keep dynasties in power. Voters, after all, are comfortable with the familiar.

As for shaping dynasties, there’s a fairly good chance a political family’s offspring will perpetuate the public service legacy.

“It’s like any other family with a family business,” Stephen Hess, a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution, told Politico last year. “Their parents’ connections are helpful to them and they’re also often encouraged to do it.”

Maine’s dynasties

With this week’s resurgent interest in royalty, here’s a sampling — not a comprehensive list — of Maine families and other combinations that qualify as their own brand of Maine dynasty.

Baldacci: Brothers John, Gerry and Joe got their start on the Bangor City Council, following in the footsteps of their father, Robert, who was active in Democratic Party politics. John then served six terms in the state Senate, four in the U.S. House and two as governor. Now, current Councilor Joe Baldacci is eyeing a run for his brother’s old congressional seat. Meanwhile, brother Peter Baldacci has long served as a Penobscot County commissioner, and sister Rosemary made a bid for the Maine House in the early 1990s. Outside of elected office, brother Bob has chaired the Finance Authority of Maine, and sister Lisa has worked on Capitol Hill and as a Maine political operative. Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell isn’t part of the Baldacci dynasty, but he’s a relative. Mitchell’s mother and Gov. Baldacci’s grandmother were sisters who immigrated from Lebanon.

Mills: Peter Mills is the third Sumner Peter Mills to serve in the Maine Legislature. His grandfather, from Stonington, served one term in the Maine House and two in the Senate between 1903 and 1908. Father Sumner P. Mills Jr. of Farmington, a Republican, served three terms in the House and two in the Senate between 1939 and 1970. And S. Peter Mills III of Cornville, a Republican, served seven Senate terms and one House term between 1995 and 2010. Democratic sister Janet served three terms in the Maine House and is serving her second term as attorney general. In 1994, she challenged John Baldacci in the Democratic primary for the 2nd Congressional District seat. Sister Dora Anne is former head of the Maine Center for Disease Control. Peter Mills’ wife, Nancy, is a Superior Court justice.

Pingree-Sussman: Before her election to the U.S. House in 2008, Democrat Chellie Pingree served four terms in the Maine Senate, including two as majority leader, between 1993 and 2000. She unsuccessfully challenged Republican Sen. Susan Collins for her seat in 2002. Meanwhile, her daughter Hannah served four terms in the Maine House, including one as majority leader and one as speaker. Both Pingrees’ names swirl in speculative circles when the focus turns to future statewide races. The Pingree family added fortune in 2011 when Chellie married Donald Sussman, a major Democratic donor in Maine and across the country.

Collins: U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ two parents, Donald and Patricia, served as mayors of Caribou. Donald served one term in the Maine House and four in the Senate between 1971 and 1992. Susan Collins worked on Capitol Hill for former Sen. William Cohen, served as Gov. John McKernan’s commissioner of professional and financial regulation and ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1994 before she was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996. Patricia Collins became the second woman to chair the University of Maine System board of trustees in the early 1990s.

King-King-King: It’s admittedly a stretch to call this a dynasty since there are no blood relations, but there’s no denying those with the last name King have played a major role in Maine politics. Maine’s first governor was William King, who held the office from 1820 to 1821. Unrelated Angus King became Maine’s 72nd governor and is now its newest senator. Meanwhile, Bangor author Stephen King and wife Tabitha are major Democratic donors.

Beliveau: One of the State House’s most influential lobbyists, Severin Beliveau served a term each in the Maine House and Senate in the late 1960s. He is a former Maine Democratic Party chairman, and he ran in the 1986 Democratic gubernatorial primary, losing to then-Attorney General James Tierney. Son Emmett is an aide in the Obama White House, and son Devin served a term in the Maine House (2010-2012). Severin’s father, Albert, was a Maine Supreme Court justice and grandfather Matthew McCarthy was the first municipal court judge in Rumford. Uncle William McCarthy was a Superior Court judge, and brother Albert was an Oxford County probate judge.

Snowe-McKernan: This special brand of Republican dynasty began with Peter Snowe, who was killed in a car accident during his second Maine House term. Olympia Snowe won the special election to replace her first husband, spawning a 40-year career in elective office. Snowe and John McKernan dated while they represented Maine in the U.S. House. They married in 1989, during McKernan’s first term as governor. Snowe was elected to the Senate in 1994, becoming the first woman in history to serve in both chambers of her state Legislature and both houses of Congress. Peter Snowe met Gov. Paul LePage as a teenager and persuaded Husson College to let LePage take the entrance exam in his native French.

Woodcock: Penobscot County Judge of Probate Allan Woodcock Jr. retired last year as the state’s longest serving probate judge. Nephew John A. Woodcock serves as chief judge of the U.S. District Court for Maine. John’s son, Patrick, is LePage’s energy director and a former Snowe aide. John’s brother Tim is a Bangor lawyer and a former Bangor mayor and councilor. Sister Elizabeth Woodcock is an assistant attorney general in New Hampshire.

Longley: Maine’s first independent governor, James Longley, served one term in the Blaine House (1975-1979). His son, Republican James Longley Jr., served a term in the U.S. House (1995-1997), representing Maine’s 1st District, and unsuccessfully challenged Angus King for governor in 1998.

Martin: While not part of a political family, John Martin became a major power broker in his 19 terms in the Maine House — including nine as speaker — and four in the Senate. Some called him the Earl of Eagle Lake.

But Martin himself proved Maine is no monarchy. He lost power last year when he came up short in his bid for re-election to the House.

Leave your thoughts about additional Maine “royal” families in the comments.

Matthew Stone is BDN opinion page editor.

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