Maine Senate Republicans chose Sen. Amy Volk of Scarborough as their assistant majority leader on Monday to fill a position vacated last month by the resignation of Sen. Andre Cushing, R-Newport.
Volk defeated Sen. James Hamper, R-Oxford, for the position. The 18 Senate Republicans conducted the election by secret ballot.
After the election for assistant leader, Volk said her caucus is united heading into the second year of the 128th Legislature and that fundraising for the 2018 legislative campaigns would be a priority. The Legislature enacted a bill this year that bans candidates who use the Maine Clean Elections Fund for their campaigns from also running political action committees.
In her first Senate campaign, Volk ran as a Clean Elections candidate. She used private money to fund her re-election campaign.
“While I think ethically that was extremely important legislation and I completely support it, it does make fundraising a bit of a challenge because so many Senate candidates in particular run as clean election candidates,” said Volk to reporters after the vote.
Volk said she was unsure whether she will retain her positions as chairwoman of the Legislature’s Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee and member of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee. She said she would discuss that with other members of Senate leadership, including Senate President Mike Thibodeau of Winterport and Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason of Lisbon.
Volk, who is in her second term in the Senate, replaces Cushing, who announced his resignation as assistant majority leader in late October. He said in a letter to colleagues that “at this time, I do not have the ability to continue the duties incumbent with a leadership role.”
Cushing, serving his third term in the Senate, has easily won elections in his district, also playing a key role in helping Republicans win the Senate majority in 2014 and retain it in 2016. He’s a prolific fundraiser whose political action committee, Respect Maine, raised more than $380,000 between 2013 and 2016.
But Cushing’s handling of campaign cash triggered complaints during the past year. In October 2016, his sister, Laura Cushing McIntyre of Hermon, sued him in a state court after alleging he misused more than $1 million in family money. Cushing called it a “family disagreement,” and the case is pending.
McIntyre also filed a complaint with the Maine Ethics Commission on the matter. After a probe, the panel fined Cushing’s PAC and campaign $9,000 in August after ruling 11 finance reports arrived late. The PAC raised just under $5,000 between January 2017 and October’s end.
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Correction: An earlier version of this post stated incorrectly that Volk would leave her position on the Legislature's Labor Committee. Volk said later she is unsure.