On the Maine Legislature’s opening day, partisan lines were drawn in the Republican-led Senate, which rejected a demand from Democrats that would have effectively left the voters of southern Maine’s District 25 without a state senator. In a party-line vote, the Republicans chose to provisionally seat GOP candidate Cathy Manchester, of Gray, as the official winner in the race, which is at the center of controversy following a recount. Democrats had hoped that Republican Senate leaders would agree not to seat a senator for District 25 while the mystery associated with 21 so-called phantom ballots remains unsolved. Democrat Cathy Breen, of Falmouth, had initially been declared the winner on election night, with a 32-vote margin of victory over Republican Cathy Manchester. A recount reversed those results, giving Manchester an 11-vote lead, bolstered by 21 ballots from Long Island that the town clerk said were not initially included in the total count. Breen says she wasn’t surprised when Republicans voted 20-14 to provisionally seat Manchester – but she wasn’t pleased. “Nobody should be really sitting in that seat,” Breen said, at a news conference.
Now the focus of the disputed election moves to the deliberations of the Senate’s seven-member Special Election Committee, comprised of Republicans Roger Katz, of Augusta, Thomas Saviello, of Wilton, Garrett Mason, of Lisbon Falls, and Andre Cushing, of Hampden. Democrats include Dawn Hill, of Cape Neddick, Stan Gerzofsky, of Brunswick, and Bill Diamond, of Windham.
Republicans have the votes to control the mechanics of the probe into the District 25 vote, but Breen says the integrity of voting process is at stake, and she’s confident that the panel will do its job.
“I have a lot of confidence in Sen. Diamond and Sen. Gerzofsky and Sen. Hill,” Breen said. “I also think the Republican members are taking this very seriously. Sen. Katz has a great reputation as a very fair and middle-of-the-road type of person, so I’m confident that with the questions in front of them, they understand the issues and they understand what is at stake. And I really believe that all of them will take this very seriously.”