A legislative committee on Wednesday split votes on a bill that would prohibit the secretary of state from running for governor or federal office during his or her term. The State and Local Government Committee voted 5-4 in favor of the amended version of L.D. 947, which is sponsored by Sen. Christopher Johnson, D-Somerville. Johnson’s original bill would have prohibited all three of the state’s constitutional officers — secretary of state, attorney general and treasurer — from running for higher office. While Johnson argued that the attorney general and treasurer face severe time constraints in trying to hold a full-time job and campaign, he said the secretary of state faces the additional burden of the appearance of conflict of interest. “There’s merit in not having someone in office overseeing their own elections,” he said.
Last year, all three of the state’s Republican constitutional officers ran for the U.S. Senate seat that came open when U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe annoiunced her retirement. Secretary of State Charlie Summers defeated Treasurer Bruce Poliquin, Attorney General William Schneider and three others in a Republican primary.
Summers lost in the general election to independent U.S. Sen. Angus King.