AUGUSTA, Maine — A Saco dentist was elected on Saturday to lead the Maine Republican Party into the statewide political realignment that the end of Gov. Paul LePage’s tenure may bring.
The party’s state committee picked Demi Kouzounas, who was elected as vice chairwoman in 2015, to succeed Rick Bennett, who took over in 2013 and oversaw big victories, including the Republican governor’s re-election in 2014, U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin’s two wins in the 2nd Congressional District and President Donald Trump’s 2016 win in the 2nd District.
She has a thinner political resume than Bennett: She lost a Maine House of Representatives race in 2012, while Bennett is a former Maine Senate president who ran unsuccessful congressional bids in 1994 and 2012 and may run to replace the term-limited LePage in 2018.
But she has promised to continue Bennett’s work and won the chair’s seat with LePage’s backing over Matt Leonard of Auburn, the former executive director of the region’s chamber of commerce. Party spokeswoman Nina McLaughlin said the party wouldn’t release vote totals.
After the election, Kouzounas said Bennett has “made it easy” for her to take over and that she plans to keep all party staff in place, saying the party is “trying to stay extremely positive and work towards a little fiscal responsibility for the state.”
Ryan Lorrain of Waterville, an aide to Republicans in the Maine House of Representatives, was elected to replace Kouzounas as vice chairman. He beat outgoing Aroostook County Republican Committee Chairman Blake Winslow of Presque Isle for the second spot.