AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — The Maine House Republicans on Wednesday elected Rep. Kenneth Fredette of Newport as their floor leader for the new two-year session, bypassing the outgoing speaker and another veteran lawmaker.
Fredette, an attorney who is beginning his second term, gained visibility during the last session as a member of the budget-reviewing Appropriations Committee and the panel that redrew the line between Maine’s two congressional districts.
After two years in a long-awaited role as majority party, Republicans are back in minority status in both the House and Senate. After his election, Fredette sought to set aside any bitterness and congratulated Rep. Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, on his nomination as House speaker a day earlier.
‘‘I look forward to working with him. Many of the issues we deal with here in the Legislature are issues there’s bipartisan support on, so we certainly look forward to dealing with those issues,’’ Fredette said.
‘‘There will be difficult issues, particularly with the budget. We will have to sit down, it’s going to be many hours of hard work — I assume it will be nights and weekends — but we will get together, we will have a budget the governor will sign, and we will do the work of the people of the state of Maine,’’ Fredette said.
Unlike last session when he had GOP support behind his agenda, Republican Gov. Paul LePage will have to negotiate with Democrats on issues likely to come up, including energy, education, social services and health insurance.
Fredette, a Maine Air National Guard major, emerged as the winner in the second round of balloting over Rep. Robert Nutting of Oakland, who was House speaker for the last two years, and Rep. Paul Davis of Sangerville, who is starting his third House term and has also served four terms in the Senate, part of that time in leadership.
Rep. Alex Willette of Mapleton defeated two others, Reps. Deborah Sanderson of Chelsea and Jeff Timberlake of Turner, for assistant minority leader. He a is 23-year-old student at the University of Maine School of Law.
The House Republican caucus completed both parties’ leadership votes in the House and Senate, shifting the focus to races for Maine treasurer, secretary of state, attorney general and auditor. The first three, known as constitutional offices, are occupied by Republicans, but because of the power shift, they will be replaced by Democratic candidates. The state auditor, Democrat Neria Douglass, has reached her eight-year term limit.
Wednesday will be an orientation day for new legislators, and the three constitutional officers and auditor will be elected after the new Legislature is sworn in Dec. 5.