A two-term Republican member of the House of Representatives announced Tuesday that he has left the Republican Party to become an independent.
Rep. Norman Higgins of Dover-Foxcroft said in a written statement that he will finish his term unenrolled from any political party.
Higgins, a retired public schools educator, said he has grown tired of the Legislature’s partisan politics in which “outcomes are measured in wins and losses.”
“Our citizens observe this extreme level of competition and lose faith in our ability as a society to find solutions for the common good,” said Higgins. “The citizens expect their representatives to work together and capture the best ideas regardless of party and find common-sense solutions.”
Higgins, who was first elected to the Legislature in 2014, is currently a member of the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee. His district includes Atkinson, Brownville, Dover-Foxcroft, Medford, Milo, Lakeville Plantation and the unorganized township of Orneville.
Higgins said Tuesday that the debate over the biennial state budget bill drove him to leave the GOP. Higgins was among the only House Republicans who voted in favor of the budget before the state went into a three-day government shutdown.
“I opposed shutting the state down because no one really knew how long that would be,” said Higgins. “I thought it was poor public policy and it sent a powerful message to the citizens of Maine: As a Legislature we hadn’t been able to work together, hadn’t been able to find consensus, hadn’t been able to communicate.”
Higgins’ decision leaves the balance of power in the House at 74 Democrats, 69 Republicans, one Green Independent and six independents. One Lisbon-area seat, formerly held by the late Republican Rep. Gina Mason, is vacant and will be filled during a special election in November.
Higgins is the fourth House member to quit a political party in recent months. Three Democrats announced earlier this year that they left the party, two to become independents and one to join the Green Independent Party.
The defections have little practical effect on the makeup of the Legislature because Democrats have so far managed to muster a majority on most key votes.