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Political Brew: Milestones in the Legislature, grace in defeat and codifying same-sex marriage

Our analysts this week are longtime Democratic activist and lobbyist Betsy Sweet and former Republican state senator and Yarmouth town councilor Phil Harriman.

MAINE, USA — Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland, is poised to become the first Black speaker of the Maine House. The Democratic caucus nominated her on Thursday, and since they are in the majority, Talbot Ross' election is virtually assured. 

Her father, Gerald Talbot, was the first Black legislator ever in Maine.

Betsy Sweet was there when the nomination was made. 

"Lots of tears flowing, including mine, to see such a milestone." 

Sweet pointed out that of the ten legislative leaders in both chambers for the coming session, eight are women, and there are more minorities represented. 

"It's good for us in terms of the kind of policies we will see. They will be much more attuned to what people actually experience here in Maine," Sweet said.

"I'm bursting with pride," Phil Harriman said of Talbot Ross' selection to be the next speaker. "It's all about what the future of Maine looks like. Good for her and good for us."

This past week, the ranked-choice voting tabulation showed that U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, D-Maine, has won a third term representing the state's second congressional district. 

Former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, who failed in his effort to win the seat back, issued a gracious concession statement thanking his supporters and wishing Golden and the people of Maine well.

It's a sharp contrast to former Gov. Paul LePage's bitter statement to his supporters on election night when it was becoming clear he would lose the race to Gov. Janet Mills.

Harriman hopes that's not the lasting image of LePage's political career. 

"The election was over. Gov. Mills was reelected. He should have found a way to say, 'Boy, this really hurts. I'm disappointed, but she won. Congratulations, let's come together.'" 

Harriman thinks the lesson people should take from LePage's story is: "Anyone in this state, wherever you come from, can rise to be the governor."

Sweet praised Poliquin for taking the high road, saying, "We have to get back to where you put yourself out there, and if you win, good for you. And if you lose, you lose graciously and move on."

With votes from a dozen Republicans, the U.S. Senate is moving forward on a bill to codify same-sex marriage into law. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine lead the bipartisan effort. 

Our analysts think it should be enacted and hope it bodes well for efforts to codify into law the reproductive rights in Roe v. Wade, which was overturned by SCOTUS this year.

Sweet thinks there are a lot of Republicans "who have been pro-choice all along who are saying this was a missed call" by the court. 

And Harriman believes, "Whether it's an election year or not, these are the types of issues that we elect people" to address.

Harriman and Sweet also discussed former President Donald Trump's decision to seek another term in the White House and the promise by some House Republicans to use their slim new majority to launch investigations into the Biden administration and the president's son Hunter Biden's business dealings.

Political Brew airs Sundays on NEWS CENTER Maine's Weekend Morning Report.

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