While Maine will decide Tuesday between two old hands in Gov. Janet Mills and former Gov. Paul LePage, elections down the ticket will elevate some less-known politicians.
Democratic majorities are at risk in both legislative chambers with Maine seeing some of the most competitive races of this kind in the country. Republicans are most bullish on the 151-member House, where they picked up seats in 2020 and made redistricting gains.
Add that to a record amount of spending on legislative races and a number of departing top lawmakers — either due to term limits or possible Tuesday losses — and it makes for uncertain battles for the party leadership positions determining the State House agenda.
Here are some of the people you may hear more about after Election Day.
Rep. Laurel Libby, R-Auburn
This freshman lawmaker surfaced in politics in 2019 in opposition to a bill supported by Gov. Janet Mills that ended religious and personal exemptions to school vaccine requirements. The former critical care nurse told lawmakers she and her husband would leave Maine if it passed.
Instead of leaving, she joined a people’s veto campaign against the law that failed badly at the ballot box. In 2020, she defeated Rep. Bettyann Sheats, D-Auburn, grabbing attention in office for likening a fight against Mills’ COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers to “war” and when she proposed suspending Maine’s gas tax earlier this year.
Her campaign has raised $62,000, almost twice as much as any other House candidate. She is also a key figure behind the Dinner Table PAC, a group that warred with outgoing House Republican leaders this year while providing significant support to the candidates.
While some may see her as extreme or inexperienced, she has high political energy and could be tapped for a leadership role in the chamber with the two House Republican leaders leaving office due to term limits this year. She did not answer a question about whether she is considering it this week but said she was not thinking about it in August.
Assistant House Majority Leader Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland
The daughter of Maine’s first Black lawmaker and the first Black woman ever elected to either chamber, Ross is the odds-on favorite to be the next House speaker if Democrats hold their majority. Her selection would be a fascinating one for many reasons.
Biggest among them is that the No. 3 House Democrat has championed legislation resisted by Mills, including a tribal sovereignty overhaul opposed by the governor in favor of a compromise and a bill aiming to reduce pretextual traffic stops that was vetoed by Mills. She led the NAACP in Maine when LePage made his 2011 “kiss my butt” comment directed at the group.
Talbot Ross would be popular with progressives. She also comes with some baggage after resigning from a job with the city of Portland in 2015 following a dispute with parking attendants, according to the Portland Press Herald. She would be the fourth Democratic speaker from Freeport south, cementing southern Maine’s hold on the party.
Rep. Joshua Morris, R-Turner
Morris, who has represented a deep-red district since 2018, has been a ubiquitous presence on the campaign trail with former Gov. Paul LePage and former Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine’s 2nd District. The real estate agent has been Democrats’ top foil on the insurance committee.
Generally seen as aligned with outgoing House Minority Leader Kathleen Dillingham, R-Turner, Morris voted against his party only 3 percent of the time in this Legislature. When asked about his plans on Sunday, he said he had not decided on pursuing a leadership position but that he may do it regardless of whether his party is in the majority or minority.
“Obviously, to make a declaration before the votes are counted, [that would be] a little premature,” he said.
Assistant Senate Majority Leader Mattie Daughtry, D-Brunswick
Things are unstable for Senate Democrats going into Tuesday’s election. Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, is facing the political fight of his life in a race with Rep. Sue Bernard, R-Caribou, that has drawn more than $1 million in campaign and outside spending.
If Jackson loses his seat but Democrats keep the chamber, Daughtry could replace him in the top spot. The first-term senator and brewery owner won her deep-blue seat easily in 2020 and seems to be in no real danger this time in a race with Republican Brogan Teel.
Former Rep. Dick Campbell, R-Orrington
If the Republicans win and want to turn to a veteran lawmaker as their next speaker, Campbell could be their choice. The 73-year-old is running to return to the House after a two-year absence. Before that, he served 16 years in Augusta, including two in a leadership role.
Campbell said Monday that he is “being asked by many” to run for leadership but is trying to help candidates to win the majority. He could be a compromise candidate in an internal House battle that could differ sharply depending on who is elected governor. If LePage and House Republicans win their elections, his endorsement could determine the next speaker.