With two Democratic state representatives leaving their party last week, neither Democrats nor Republicans have an outright majority in the Maine State House –– making it the first legislature in the country where political independents control the balance of power. The chamber is now comprised of 75 Democrats, 71 Republicans, and 5 independents.
Two independents, Rep. Owen Casas and Rep. Kent Ackley, were elected last November. Republican state representative Kevin Battle joined them in January, telling the Portland Press Herald: “I’ve always been an independent and most of the voters in my district are independents, so I think this would work better for both me and my constituents.”
And, as of last week, two Democratic state representatives, Rep. Denise Harlow and Rep. Ralph Chapman, unenrolled from their own party. Rep. Harlow told the Bangor Daily News: “There is a long-term systematic problem in the building where individual thinkers are often marginalized.”
Nick Troiano, Executive Director of the Centrist Project, and Kyle Bailey, President of Maine Independents, issued the following statement:
An increasing number of legislators are finding truth in John F. Kennedy’s observation that, “Sometimes party loyalty asks too much.”
These legislators made a politically courageous decision to stand up for their principles and for the people they represent by unenrolling from their political parties, and we expect more will follow as others see the independence, influence, and impact they will have.
Ultimately, Mainers will benefit from having more leaders in the legislature who put problem solving ahead of petty partisanship.