Republicans in the Maine Senate picked two longtime lawmakers to lead them through 2022 as the state faces a massive budget shortfall.
The new Senate minority leader will be Jeff Timberlake, R-Turner, a businessman who will take over for the outgoing Dana Dow, R-Waldoboro, who lost his reelection bid to Rep. Chloe Maximin, D-Nobleboro. The party picked leaders on Tuesday after the Senate caucus was reduced from 14 to 13 in last week’s election.
Timberlake, who entered the Legislature in 2010, served as assistant leader under Dow last term. He will be replaced in the No. 2 spot by Sen. Matt Pouliot of Augusta, who first won election as a state representative in 2012. Both are in their second Senate terms.
The new minority leader is a reliable conservative from a deep-red district. He was an ally of former Gov. Paul LePage who served on the budget committee during the state government shutdown in 2017. Timberlake has been a main critic of the level of spending in the two-year budget advanced in 2019 by Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat.
Pouliot went from representing half of Democratic-leaning Augusta in the House from 2012 to 2018 to representing the whole city and outlying conservative towns in the Senate. He has long served on the Legislature’s education committee and has gotten high marks from normally liberal-leaning state employee and teachers’ unions.
In the House, Pouliot bucked his party to support Medicaid expansion. He has taken a more conservative turn in the Senate, including as a chief opponent of a bill that repealed nonmedical exemptions to school vaccine requirements.
In a statement, Timberlake and Pouliot said they will work to “hold the line” on taxes as Maine faces a projected $1.4 billion shortfall due to the coronavirus pandemic. They criticized Mills for acting unilaterally during the pandemic since the Legislature adjourned in March and said they would “restore balance.”