December 09, 2019
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Future head of sportsmen’s lobby wants to keep Maine Senate seat, but can he?

David Trahan

AUGUSTA, Maine — Sen. David Trahan, who last week was picked to lead a powerful sportsmen’s lobbying group, plans to meet this week with Maine Ethics Commission staff to see if he can keep his Senate seat.

Scott Fish, spokesman for the Maine Senate Republicans, said Trahan wants to complete his term so he can continue working on tax reform, an issue the Waldoboro legislator has long championed.

“I think he wants to finish the session, but he wants to see if that is possible,” Fish said Monday, speaking for Trahan, who was unavailable for comment.

Trahan has agreed in principle to become the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, replacing interim director Matthew Dunlap. Longtime SAM Executive Director George Smith stepped down in late 2010 as head of the 14,000-member organization.

SAM’s board of directors has approved the hiring of Trahan but the details of his contract have not been ironed out.

Trahan had indicated he planned to resign in September, but Fish said that may not be the case.

Jonathan Wayne, executive director of Maine Ethics Commission, said lawmakers often ask his opinion about potential conflicts of interest, but he would not comment on any meeting with Trahan.

Nothing in state law prohibits a legislator from acting as a lobbyist, but Wayne said the ethics commission generally frowns upon the practice. A memo authored in 1986 by then-Assistant Attorney General William Stokes concludes that doing both would constitute a conflict of interest.

Trahan technically could get around the conflict by not registering as a lobbyist, but traditionally, the executive director of SAM has been the chief lobbyist on all things outdoors. Fish said other lawmakers have held influential positions, including former House Majority Leader John Piotti, D-Unity, who lead the Maine Farmland Trust while he was in the Legislature.

Jodi Quinitero, spokesman for the House Democrats, said Piotti never lobbied on behalf of Maine Farmland Trust.

If Trahan keeps his Senate seat, he may turn over SAM’s lobbying duties to someone else. If he is advised that doing both would be a conflict, Trahan would resign from the Senate, according to Fish, and the process would begin for a special election.

Among those considered for Trahan’s Senate seat, according to Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster, are: Rep. Dana Dow, R-Waldoboro, who held the seat from 2004 to 2008; and Rep. Jonathan McKane, R-Newcastle, who is serving his fourth term in the House.

Lizzy Reinholt, spokeswoman for the Maine Democrats, said her party is as interested in Trahan’s seat as they would be in any seat but she didn’t offer any names.

Trahan, 48, spent eight years in the House and is in the middle of his second Senate term. Among his accomplishments are working to establish the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability, a state watchdog office, and working last year to repeal a Democratic tax plan.

He also led an unsuccessful effort to present voters with a proposed constitutional amendment to earmark a portion of Maine’s sales tax for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and the Department of Marine Resources. Trahan and other supporters argued that the state has failed to live up to its funding obligations and many Maine residents — as well as tourists — benefit from the services provided by the departments’ game wardens and biologists but do not purchase licenses that finance the department.

So far, there already have been three special elections during the 125th Legislature:

• Rep. Beth Turner, R-Burlington, was elected in March to fill the seat left vacant when Rep. Everett McLeod, R-Lee, died in December.

• Rep. Cynthia Dill, D-Cape Elizabeth, was elected in May to fill the seat of Sen. Larry Bliss, D-South Portland, who stepped down in March to take a job in California.

• Democrat Kimberly Monaghan-Derrig and Republican Nancy Thompson will face off in an Aug. 16 special election to fill Dill’s vacant House seat.

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