AUGUSTA, Maine — Former four-term Democratic Rep. Terry Hayes of Buckfield, who left the party after Election Day, emerged victorious Wednesday in her bid to unseat State Treasurer Neria Douglass.
A joint convention of the Legislature on Wednesday evening returned Maine’s other two constitutional officers, Secretary of State Matt Dunlap and Attorney General Janet Mills, both Democrats, to their positions for two-year terms. They turned away challenges from former Republican Sen. Jonathan Courtney and William Logan, an attorney from Augusta.
Weeks of speculation about whether Republican gains in last month’s elections would unseat any of Maine’s constitutional officers ended Wednesday evening when Hayes won the position. Douglass, a former state senator from Auburn, served as state auditor before being elected treasurer in 2012.
Hayes, the assistant House minority leader from 2010 to 2012, told the BDN last month that she left the Democratic party after working on independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler’s campaign. She said she became an independent because she’s not comfortable with either major party label.
“I think my working relationship with the majority of the members of the joint convention made the difference,” she said after the vote. “Some of these people have worked with me for eight years who know who I am and how I operate and trust me.”
Democratic House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe of Skowhegan, who had previously predicted that Douglass would be re-elected, said after the vote that Hayes’ recent tenure in the Legislature, along with the fact that as a party leader she helped a lot of Democrats in their election bids, obviously helped Hayes on Wednesday.
“She’s helped a number of our members get re-elected,” McCabe said. “She drove a lot of these people door to door.”
Republican House Minority Leader Ken Fredette of Newport said Hayes’ election was due squarely to her reputation. He said having an independent in the treasurer’s position will be good for the state.
“At the end of the day it was really about her character,” Fredette said. “[Her election] shows that we can all look past party affiliation and do what is in the state’s best interest.”
Maine is the only state where the Legislature elects its attorney general. In 43 states, voters elect the attorney general; governors appoint the attorney general in five states, including New Hampshire; and Tennessee’s supreme court names that state’s attorney general to eight-year terms.
Voters in more than 30 states also elect the secretary of state and treasurer.
There is some interest to changing the Maine Constitution so that the state’s constitutional officers would be elected by a statewide vote, including from Gov. Paul LePage, who has said making the change is among his policy priorities this year.
A bill that would have done just that failed in 2013. Sponsored by Sen. Andre Cushing, R-Hampden, the bill called for the statewide election of the secretary of state and treasurer every two years and the attorney general every four years. The bill failed in both the House and Senate with predominantly Democrats in the opposition.