AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine Democratic Party Chair Drew Gattine said he will remain in his leadership post after entering a primary last week in a recently redrawn state House district.
The decision from the former state representative from Westbrook comes ahead of a crucial 2022 election in which Democrats will try to defend Gov. Janet Mills from a challenge with former Republican Gov. Paul LePage, alongside another top-tier race in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District and major legislative races.
State parties across the country are often run by officeholders, but it has not been a common practice in Maine in recent years with parties usually staying neutral in truly competitive primaries for legislative seats, making Gattine’s planned primary run from the top spot in the party against Scarborough Town Councilor Jean-Marie Caterina notable.
He filed for the race on Thursday. Gattine did not initially answer a question last week about whether he would leave the post to run, but he said in a Monday email that he would remain.
“We have a great team of professionals at the [party] who show up every day for the people of Maine and I’m proud to continue to serve the state party as its [chair],” he said.
Gattine’s dual role in state politics may only have a limited effect. Professional staff of Maine’s political parties manage day-to-day activities. While the chair oversees them, their main jobs are building alliances, raising money and supporting candidates in the general election.
Catarina, a real estate agent and Scarborough town councilor who has twice run for the Legislature and has qualified for the primary ballot, said Gattine called her to let her know he would also be gunning for the newly redrawn district split across Scarborough, Saco and Westbrook. That is unlike Gattine’s old district, which was only in his home city.
“That’s fine,” Catarina said of Gattine’s decision to run. “It’s a primary.”
Gattine had a background like many others who have headed Maine Democrats and Republicans here in recent years, taking the position in early 2021 after serving four House terms. He was a top LePage foil on the health and budget committees during a contentious time in Augusta that included a 2017 first government shutdown.
He was the subject of LePage’s infamous 2016 episode in which the then-governor left an obscene voicemail for Gattine and later said he wanted to challenge the Democrat to a duel over remarks he believed the Democrat had made.