The chairman of the Maine Republican Party confirmed Friday he would not run for another two-year term in January. Rick Bennett, a former state Senate president from Oxford, said he intends to remain politically active and did not rule out running for office again, including possibly for governor in 2018.

Bennett, who was first elected party chairman in 2012, said he was pleased with what he’s accomplished in recent years, largely reunifying a state party that seemed torn at the seams between moderate Republicans, far-right conservatives and the party’s libertarian elements.

Under his tenure Republicans captured the majority in the Maine Senate and for the first time in 30 years were able to hold on to it in 2016, Bennett said. He also noted that for the first time in 28 years, Maine Republicans were able to deliver an Electoral College vote for the Republican presidential candidate.

The party has also been able to elect and re-elect a Republican in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District while steadily growing its numbers in the Maine House of Representatives, where it remains in the minority by five seats.

Bennett noted Friday that he first said he wasn’t going to run again to be party chairman back during a party caucus in March, and that he hasn’t really been keeping his decision under wraps.

The party’s next chairman will be selected on Jan. 28 during a meeting of the Maine Republican State Committee, which includes about 80 party officials from around the state.

The party’s vice chairman, Demi Kouzounas, a Saco dentist, is expected to make a bid for the seat.

Bennett, who lost a primary election in 2012 for a U.S. Senate seat that was ultimately won by former Gov. Angus King, an independent, said now that his children are both in college, he feels he has more time to pursue politics in Maine again.

“I certainly intend to remain active and may consider what expression that may take,” Bennett said. “I wouldn’t rule anything out right now.”

Bennett also said he would continue to work with Maine’s Republican Gov. Paul LePage – who personally persuaded Bennett to become the party’s chairman – on fiscal and tax policy issues in the new year.

“I expect we will get through this winter and spring and see what happens,”

Bennett said. He also said he believed the party is in good shape and poised to put up well-qualified candidates for statewide office in the years ahead.

“I think we have a very strong bench of candidates for major office, especially when you consider Democrats haven’t won a statewide race in Maine for nearly 10 years now,” he said.


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