Incoming Maine House Democrats at their caucus on Friday chose to keep Rep. Sara Gideon of Freeport as House speaker and elected Rep. Matt Moonen as majority leader with Rep. Ryan Fecteau as assistant majority leader.
Moonen of Portland will take over in the 129th Legislature for Erin Herbig, D-Belfast, who was elected to the Maine Senate last week. Fecteau of Biddeford replaces Jared Golden, who was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday in a ranked-choice voting contest against incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin.
Democrats in the House chose Moonen over Reps. Teresa Pierce of Falmouth and Craig Hickman of Winthrop, and Fecteau over Rep. Benjamin Collings of Portland. Gideon was unopposed, her spokeswoman Mary-Erin Casale said.
House Democrats did not make public the vote totals in each race, although they did say that Gideon won unanimous support.
With Democrats now holding a strong majority in the House, Gideon is expected to serve another two-year term as speaker. Her appointment will not be final, however, until the full House votes Dec. 5.
Gideon’s first two years as speaker were marked by clashes with Republican Gov. Paul LePage and a House Republican caucus that aligned staunchly with the governor, often in conflict with House Democrats and both Senate caucuses. In 2017, she was speaker during the first state government shutdown since 1991. Earlier this year, her leadership team and the minority led by departing Rep. Ken Fredette of Newport quarrelled bitterly about when to end the shorter regular legislative session, which prompted a protracted special session that stretched from early summer to the cusp of fall and left members of both parties in both chambers frustrated.
The partisan gridlock that often dragged House deliberations late into the night sometimes caused Gideon to express frustration from the rostrum and led her to take the relatively rare move of temporarily giving up the speaker’s gavel to make a floor speech imploring members to accept a compromise to extend the 2018 regular session. House Republicans voted against her proposal.
With Democrat Janet Mills preparing to become governor in January, Gideon should face far fewer obstacles from the executive branch as she uses her second term to advance progressive legislation that fell victim to partisan wrangling during her first two years as speaker.
Moonen won re-election to a fourth term last week. He most recently served as House chair of the Judiciary Committee. Fecteau will be serving his third term in the House. During the 128th Legislature, he served as House chair of the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee.
At a smaller House Republican caucus earlier this week, party leaders elected Reps. Kathleen Dillingham of Oxford as minority leader and Trey Stewart of Presque Isle as assistant minority leader.
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