A version of this article was originally published in The Daily Brief, our Maine politics newsletter. Sign up here for daily news and insight from politics editor Michael Shepherd.
It has been one week since we saw the indictment of Rep. Clinton Collamore, D-Waldoboro, on charges relating to alleged signature fraud in Maine’s Clean Election program.
House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland, quickly called on him to resign after it was disclosed. But he has apparently not done so yet. This calls the Legislature’s next steps into question.
The rules: Under the Maine Constitution, legislators can be removed or censured under a two-thirds vote of their chamber. Rep. John Michael, I-Auburn, was the first Maine lawmaker to be censured in 2001, after he shouted at two female lawmakers in a dispute over which committees his bills were sent to.
In the past, top lawmakers have routed members facing legal or other issues through ethics committees. For example, that House group convened in 2009 after a representative was accused of trying to get preferential treatment from police during an incident at his camp.
But those panels have been used sparingly over the years, because lawmakers in trouble usually resign quickly. He did not show up for floor votes or committee work last week. Members are barred by House rules from missing two days without approval.
Silence at the top: A spokesperson for Talbot Ross has not answered questions since last week on whether the speaker would begin a formal process of kicking Collamore out of the chamber. Neither Collamore nor a lawyer who he has referred questions to have responded to inquiries from the Bangor Daily News over the past week.
A reporter went to the lawmaker’s waterfront home on Friday, where the garage door was open and vehicles were present, but nobody responded to a knock.
The political implications: If Collamore does leave or is forced out, Maine will likely have a swing-district special election on its hands at an uncommon time for that kind of politics. Republicans actually had a nearly 4-percentage-point party registration advantage in Collamore’s district along a ragged edge of the midcoast, and the incumbent only won his race with Republican Lynn Madison by 6 points.
That makes this an opportunity for minority Republicans. Democrats hold an 82-67 advantage on them in the chamber, so the balance of power is not in play. With a new state chair elected this weekend, the back-seat party will try to latch onto any victory they can. But Democrats have generally trounced them in special elections going back to 2015, so it may be an uphill battle.
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