AUGUSTA, Maine — State Rep. Stanley Short, D-Pittsfield, announced Monday that he has started the process of leaving the Democratic Party and becoming an unenrolled representative.
Short told the Bangor Daily News that he notified House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, and House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, of his decision on Monday morning.
“After serving one full term and three months into a second term in the Maine House of Representatives, I have come to realize that positive results are more important than partisan battles,” Short said in a written statement. “I have also come to realize that a good idea should take precedence over rigid allegiance to any particular ideology.”
Short, a retired labor union officer who has held leadership positions at the local, state and national levels for the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, said he always has affiliated himself with Democrats because he saw them as “the party that was for the blue-collar people and the middle class people.”
His view of the party has changed.
“That doesn’t seem to be the priority for the Democrats that it once was,” he said. “I just think there isn’t enough being done to build up the middle class again. … What finally hit me is that the party has left me and people like me, as far as protecting the middle class.”
Short added that he is also disappointed by years of new free-trade agreements that have shipped American jobs overseas. One example of that is in his hometown of Pittsfield, where the UTC Fire and Security plant is in the process of closing and moving its more than 300 jobs to China.
“These agreements are killing us,” said Short. “I know it’s a national issue but I think it’s going to take the states to drive the federal government to make some changes.”
Short also resigned from the Citizen Trade Policy Commission because that post is appointed by legislative leadership. He will continue in his role on the Legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee.
Eves, in a prepared statement, described Short as “a valued member of the Democratic caucus and an important leader on issues that Democrats care deeply about.”
McCabe said in a written statement that he was “deeply disappointed” about Short’s decision but that he hoped to continue working with Short, whom McCabe considers a friend.
“He has been a strong voice in the House Democratic caucus for Maine’s working men and women, statewide economic opportunity, supporting seniors and veterans and promoting and preserving Maine’s outdoor heritage,” said McCabe. “Democrats look forward to working with Rep. Short as we fight for these and other issues important to the people of Maine.”
House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, said Short’s departure is evidence of internal problems for the Maine Democratic Party.
“It shows that there’s an internal battle going on right now in the Democratic Party,” said Fredette. “I think there’s a philosophical debate between the progressive southern Maine liberals and what I would call the more moderate John F. Kennedy Democrats. … I think there’s some trouble there, just in terms of the way the party pushes their agenda and forces their members to vote.”
Short said Monday morning that he will not caucus with Democrats or Republicans.
“I think I’m going to caucus with myself for the time being,” he said.
Short said he has filed the necessary paperwork at the Pittsfield town office to become an unenrolled voter and by extension, an unenrolled representative.
“This change will only serve to enhance my efforts to work with all political parties, putting partisanship aside, in an attempt to come up with positive solutions to Maine’s problems,” said Short. “If working together becomes the priority of the majority of members of the 127th Legislature, what can be achieved in the best interest of the Maine people is limitless.”
Short, who represents District 106, which includes Clinton, Detroit and Pittsfield in central Maine, bucked Democratic legislative leaders in May 2013 when he was the only House Democrat to vote against amendments to link Medicaid expansion to repaying the state’s Medicaid debt to hospitals.
His defection from the Democratic party makes the balance of power in the House 78 Democrats, 68 Republicans and five unenrolled members. The five unenrolled House members mark the largest tally of unenrolled or independent House members since the 1913-14 session, according to the Legislature’s website.
Unenrolled voters account for more than 37 percent — more than any of the political parties — of the state’s nearly 990,000 active voters, according to data from the secretary of state.