Maine may pick Republican as AG

Jessica M. Karmasek Nov. 15, 2010, 2:00pm


AUGUSTA, Maine (Legal Newsline) - For the first time since 1980, Maine's next attorney general is expected to be a Republican.

Maine is the only state where the attorney general is elected by secret ballot in the Legislature. In almost every other state, the post is elected by the general population.

In less than a month, the Maine Legislature will cast its secret ballots.

According to the Portland Press Herald, Republicans in the Legislature are already discussing two names as possible nominees for the Nov. 30 joint caucus between the Senate and the House of Representatives: former state Sen. Doug Smith and William Schneider, a former state representative who now serves as an assistant U.S. attorney in Portland.

Democrats are expected to nominate Janet Mills for a second term, the newspaper reported.

On Dec. 1, the full Legislature will vote for not only attorney general, but also the secretary of state and treasurer posts.

It is very possible, the Portland newspaper reports, that the state's top lawyer will be a Republican.

Ever since Richard Cohen held the post 30 years ago, the office has been held by a succession of five Democrats -- most recently Mills, the state's first female attorney general.

As the Press Herald points out, now that the GOP has won a majority of the legislative seats, it has the opportunity to elect a Republican lawyer to the post.

However, even if a Republican were elected, it's uncertain if the state's next attorney general will join the 20 other states in challenging President Barack Obama's federal health care package.

Following its signing into law in March, outgoing Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum lead the charge in filing a suit against the Obama administration. The group of states has argued that requiring individuals to purchase health insurance or face a $695 yearly penalty is unconstitutional.

Maine Gov.-elect Paul LePage, also a Republican, has said he hoped the next AG would join the other states in suing the federal government. Currently, no states from the New England region are part of the litigation.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at

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