AUGUSTA — Hannibal Hamlin is safe for now, it appears.

Abe’s onetime vice president was poised to be knocked off his pedestal by Margaret Chase Smith – by popular demand – but a bill swapping out his statue in the U.S. Capitol with one of the longtime Maine senator hit a roadblock Monday when Maine arts officials who were asked to lead the effort said it would take too much time and money.

“We lack the capacity to take on a project of this magnitude,” said Bernard Fishman, director of the Maine State Museum. He testified Monday at a public hearing before the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee on behalf of the museum, the Maine Historic Preservation Commission and the Maine Arts Commission.

The bill, L.D. 1604, asks the three groups to take on all aspects of the project, from fundraising to making sure all federal requirements are met.

Fishman suggested the education committee instead create a special commission to develop funding for any statue replacement project, adding that they would be happy to sit on the commission to assist or consult. He said even the roughly $75,000 it would take for an 18-month effort to start fundraising would be too much for their budgets.

The total cost would be roughly $250,000 per statue, including paying the sculptor, fabricating the statue and pedestal, transporting the statue to the U.S. Capitol, moving and erecting the replaced statue, paying for the unveiling ceremony, and any other related expenses, officials said.

“To try to create and supervise this effort would be a multi-year project that would hinder our agency’s ability to sustain regular and necessary activities,” Fishman said.

Maybe Maggie needs a GoFundMe page.

The moderate Republican from Skowhegan, known for her “Declaration of Conscience” speech in 1950 taking on McCarthyism, was the first woman nominated for the presidency at a major party’s convention, in 1964.

Talk about shaking up which two Mainers should represent the state in National Statuary Hall has been batted around for a few years.

Hamlin, Abraham Lincoln’s first vice president, and William King, the state’s first governor, hold the honors for now. Each state has two statues in the National Statuary Hall collection, which lines the hallways of the Capitol building as well as the Capitol Rotunda and National Statuary Hall.

The Maine Legislature initially discussed whether to swap out the statue of King with one honoring Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, the Civil War hero who would later serve as governor and president of Bowdoin College. Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon Falls, who sponsored a related bill, argued that Chamberlain’s feats at the pivotal Battle of Gettysburg and throughout the Civil War made him more of a national figure than King, who led the push for Maine to break away from Massachusetts.

Lawmakers balked at a bill to send Chamberlain to Washington and bring King back to Augusta, but instead passed a resolve directing the Maine Arts Commission, the Maine Historic Preservation Commission and the Maine State Museum Commission to study the issue.

As part of that, an online survey in December came up with an interesting outcome – 63 percent of the respondents wanted the King statue replaced, and 53 percent wanted the Hamlin statue replaced – but Fishman and other arts officials found the marble statue of King was too fragile to risk a move.

But Hamlin is a sturdy bronze statue, easier to move and more likely to weather better outdoors if it was placed outside at a new location in Maine, he said.

The survey, which asked respondents to pick their favorites from a list of five female Mainers and five male Mainers, found Margaret Chase Smith the clear favorite. Among the female suggestions, she got 572 votes to Rachel Carson’s second-place finish of 147 votes. And she beat out the top male Mainer – Chamberlain with 472 votes. The second place male Mainer was poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, with 223 votes.

The education committee is scheduled to have a work session Tuesday to discuss the bill.

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