The 130th Maine Legislature has yet to start its work in earnest, but some Republican members of the House and Senate already are expressing dissatisfaction over their committee assignments.

Rep. John Andrews

In a broadside on Facebook, Rep. John Andrews of Paris took aim at House Minority Leader Kathleen Dillingham of Oxford for not giving him the committee assignment he wanted. He said he is leaving the Republican Party for the Libertarian Party and encouraged other dissatisfied Republicans to do the same.

Newly elected Sen. Rick Bennett, also of Oxford, was upset about being assigned to the Environment and Natural Resources Committee. Bennett, a vocal opponent of Central Maine Power Co.’s 145-mile transmission corridor project, had asked to serve on the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee, which has jurisdiction over laws governing energy and utility companies.

Bennett has written Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, requesting that his assignment be changed. Jackson, as presiding officer, has final say on who sits where, as does House Speaker Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, for House members, but both rely on recommendations from their Republican counterparts.

Christine Kirby, a spokeswoman for Jackson, said he has not responded to Bennett’s letter but has no plans to go against Republican leaders’ recommendations.

Like Andrews, Bennett noted his dissatisfaction with Senate Republican leaders over the committee assignment.

“Committee assignments are one of the most significant levers through which party leaders express their power,” wrote Bennett, a former Senate president himself. He went on to suggest the process for committee assignments should be changed but he did not say how.

Sen. Rick Bennett Courtesy / Rick Bennett

Bennett, a former chairman of the Maine Republican Party, did not leave the party in protest. He did not return phone messages seeking additional information Tuesday.

In a prepared statement, Senate Republican Leader Jeff Timberlake of Turner said committee assignments are not taken lightly.

“Leadership looks at and takes into account the knowledge and expertise of all caucus members when recommending committee assignments,” Timberlake said. “Many hours were spent trying to strike the best balance. Not every decision that is the best for all concerned will please everyone, every time.”

Andrews, who represents House District 73, which includes the towns of Buckfield, Hebron and Paris, said he enrolled as a Libertarian on Monday after he was assigned to the Committee on Innovation, Development, Economic Advancement and Business instead of the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, where he served previously.

Andrews is serving his second term and said that his two years experience serving on the Veterans committee, which has jurisdiction over elections, voting, veterans affairs, gambling, the lottery, and alcohol and tobacco, was being ignored. He said he had a good conservative track record on that committee and fought against efforts to alter the state’s Electoral College process, among other bills.

“This is obviously punishment for something,” Andrews wrote in a post on his Legislative Facebook page. “I will be leaving the Republican party on Monday. This is entirely because of Kathleen Dillingham’s lack of leadership and vindictive nature.”

Asked in a phone interview if he had spoken with Dillingham about his concerns, Andrews said he had not.

“Nor do I intend to,” he said.

A number of State House Republicans weighed in on Andrews’ Facebook post. Several urged him to stay in the party and others defended Dillingham’s role as leader, noting she had gained Republican seats and had a tough task finding committee homes for all lawmakers.

“Sorry to hear this,” Rep. Amy Arata of New Gloucester wrote to Andrews. “I like you. I also like Kathleen and I don’t believe she had any vindictive intent. In fact, at least one vocal critic of hers was placed on a sought-after committee. I know you will bloom in whatever committee you are planted in and that we can count on you to vote in Maine’s best interest no matter what party you affiliate with.”

Dillingham said Tuesday she did not understand Andrews’ anger over the swap. She noted that lawmakers can always advocate for any issue or bill and can offer testimony before any committee.

The said she followed tradition and asked all House Republicans to list their top three committee requests. Andrews was assigned one of the committees on his list.

“You do your best to put folks where you believe they will be beneficial and effective for the caucus as a whole,” she said.

Dillingham said she was disappointed in the public nature of Andrews’ complaints but is moving forward with other priorities for her caucus.


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