The new Congress took its seats this past week, including the new Democratic majority in the House — and up in Maine, the Republicans lost yet another legislator as they grappled with their new national reality. State Rep. Don Marean abruptly left the GOP, offering no explicit explanation beyond saying he’d let the shift “speak for itself” out of respect for House Republicans.
State House GOP spokesperson John Bott explained:
‘We were informed by the speaker’s office yesterday that he has unenrolled. We do not have any details on his decision.’
He had just won re-election for what will be his final term, since he’s reached the end of his term limits under state law come 2020. He was in the minority this time around, and with his jump from the Republican Party has become the at least seventh independent in the state legislature. Democrats held control of the state House going into 2018, at which time they also picked up control of the state Senate and the governorship, with Maine voters picking Democrat Janet Mills to replace outgoing Republican Governor Paul LePage.
Marean had opposed LePage in the past and had been known as a moderate, according to the Bangor Daily News. The publication notes that he opposed LePage’s decision to veto a bill banning “gay conversion therapy” in the state, which is meant to turn LGBT people straight and has been explicitly outlawed elsewhere.
LePage was an outspoken conservative, first elected as part of the “Tea Party” wave of ultraconservatives back in 2010. During his later years in office, he distinguished himself through means including adamantly opposing expanding Medicaid in the state, despite Maine voters having voted in favor of doing so under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act. LePage eventually faced a court order to proceed with the expansion, although he resisted even that.
His successor Janet Mills is likely to revisit the issue and expand health coverage for the people of Maine, backed by a wholly Democrat-controlled state government similar to the state’s governance situation from 2003 through 2010.
Although he didn’t offer direct commentary, it’s clear where Marean wanted to be in the midst of these shifts.
He’s not the only state lawmaker to make waves with a party shift in the aftermath of the 2018 elections. A handful of state legislators jumped ship from the GOP in Kansas as well, including two state Senators and one state Representative, all from the Kansas City area. That same area gave Democrats one of their newly acquired roughly 40 seats in the U.S. House via the victory of Native American Democrat Sharice Davids over incumbent Republican Kevin Yoder.
Members of Congress currently face the ongoing hurdle of the partial federal government shutdown over President Donald Trump’s refusal to approve any funding if it doesn’t include provisions for the border wall he wants.
Maine also contributed a seat to the new Democratic U.S. House majority; Democrat Jared Golden overcame incumbent Republican Bruce Poliquin. Democrats picked up a full 16 seats in the state House, while Republicans lost 13, with independents filling in the remainder.
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