Maine Republicans have already decided who will lead the 13-member Republican caucus in the state Senate, but the contest to decide who becomes Minority Leader in the House of Representatives is going to be a bit trickier.
As of now, four reps have thrown their hats into the ring: Billy Bob Faulkingham, Laurel Libby, Mike Lemelin, and Josh Morris.
Faulkingham, a Winter Harbor lobster fisherman, has spent much of the past year in the spotlight thanks to the ongoing federal assault on the lobster industry. It’s a portrait of the blue-collar Downeast, a 6th generation fisherman who got sick of Augusta and decided to run for office in 2018.
Politically, the bills he supported reflect economic and political conservatism. He introduced legislation that would phase in Maine’s income tax to zero, allow the sale of ethanol-free gasoline statewide, and protect free speech on college campuses. He also introduced “right to work” legislation that would end the mandatory collection of union dues on non-union paychecks. And he has been a leading voice for ending civil asset forfeiture in the state.
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Libby, a former Auburn nurse, is best known as a prominent critic of Gov. Janet Mills’ executive mandate on health care workers that led to thousands of workers losing their jobs because they refused to take the injections. experiments of COVID-19. In 2019, Libby testified at a warrant hearing in Augusta, telling lawmakers that as a nurse, she would rather leave the state than submit to the warrant. But rather than leave the state, she ran for office, defeating incumbent Democratic Rep. Betty Ann Sheats for the 64th District seat.
During her first term in the legislature, Libby declared war on the vaccine mandate and lobbied to include a religious exemption to the order. Mills’ mandate, unlike mandates elsewhere in the country, did not include an exemption for people who objected to injections on religious grounds. Libby also opposed mandatory masking and other tough measures ordered by Augusta.
Other measures Libby sponsored in the Legislative Assembly included a bill that would have eliminated the “certificate of need” in Maine. The Certificate of Need is an anti-free market policy that prevents future hospital operators from building new medical facilities in the state unless they can demonstrate the need. The policy serves as an effective monopoly protection for existing healthcare institutions. She has also sponsored bills to expand access to telemedicine.
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Morris, a Turner estate agent, was first elected in 2018. He has the blessing of the former GOP leadership, including moderate Rep. Kathy RJ Dillingham (R-Oxford), the incumbent Minority Leader in the room. A member of the Committee on Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services, much of Morris’ legislative work involved changes to MaineCare policies and health insurance regulations.
Morris, like Libby, was an opponent of vaccination mandates, sponsoring a bill that would have blocked mandates for at least five years. However, during the last election cycle, Morris led a leadership political action committee — Taking Care of Maine PAC Business — to support fellow Republican House candidates, which raised $42,250. The donations he received for this effort will likely draw criticism from conservatives.
Morris’ top donors were the Maine Association of Realtors PAC ($4,500), the Maine Health Care Association ($2,500), ABC PAC ($2,500), and PhRMA ($2,450). Other pharmaceutical companies also contributed to its PAC, including Johnson & Johnson, Astellas Pharma US, Inc., and Pfizer PAC. Morris also accepted smaller donations from several prominent Maine law firms with strong lobbying presences in Augusta, including DrummondWoodsum and Bernstein Shur.
Morris and Libby have faced off in the past by proxy. Morris ally Dillingham this year chastised the Libby-aligned PAC Dinner Table for disparaging the lackluster fundraising of the House Republican Fund, the official committee formed to help GOP candidates. This committee’s fundraising has been eclipsed this cycle by The Dinner Table, which has raised more than half a million dollars to support Republican candidates.
Of the four candidates, Lemelin, a Chelsea businessman, has perhaps the lowest profile. He joined the House of Representatives in 2020 after an unsuccessful bid in 2018. He had a career as a private pilot and operated a number of franchise restaurants in the Augusta area, including Subway and Red Robin.
During the last legislative session, Lemelin sponsored a handful of bills, including a measure to require MaineCare to cover ostomy bags and a bill to ensure police officers are properly trained in the use of radar guns. He also backed legislation that places limits on the governor’s ability to invoke emergency powers by requiring a two-thirds vote of the legislature after a 90-day period.
House Republicans are due to vote on the leadership positions on Monday.
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