AUGUSTA, Maine (Legal Newsline) - Maine lawmakers on Tuesday nominated Assistant U.S. Attorney William Schneider to be the state's next attorney general.

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.

According to the Maine Public Broadcasting Network, the state's GOP leaders made the nomination in a joint caucus between the Senate and House of Representatives. Currently, Republicans have the majority.

It would be the first time since 1980 that the state's attorney general is 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 Janet Mills, the state's first female attorney general.

Schneider also worked as an assistant attorney general and served as assistant minority leader in the Maine House of Representatives during his two terms in the Legislature.

According to the public broadcasting network, Schneider competed for the nomination against Sen. Doug Smith, a retired probate judge who is now an attorney in private practice.

Meanwhile, state Democrats were expected to nominate Mills for a second term.

The full Legislature is scheduled to vote on the candidates on Wednesday, after lawmakers are sworn in, according to the network.

If a Republican is elected to the AG post, it's still uncertain if the state will join the 20 others 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 attorney general 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

More News