LePage refuses to swear in Democratic senator after committee nixes his nominee

Gov. Paul LePage’s office said Friday morning that the Republican governor will not swear in a new Democratic senator who won a special election for a Biddeford-area Senate seat earlier this week.

Mario Moretto, a spokesman for Senate Democrats, said Susan Deschambault, who won the Senate District 32 seat on Tuesday in a special election, brought her family to the State House on Friday after LePage’s office said Thursday evening he would swear in Deschambault, allowing her to join the Senate on Friday.

LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said Friday morning when asked about it by the Bangor Daily News that “we are not doing that today. It’s not on the schedule.”

Bennett said LePage has chosen not to swear Deschambault in because of a 7-6 vote Thursday afternoon by the Labor Committee against Steven Webster, who is LePage’s nominee to the Unemployment Insurance Commission.

“Democrats treated Steve Webster despicably and it’s unfortunate that good people get caught up in political games,” said Bennett. “Gov. LePage has not sworn her in yet. The governor has five days to do so.”

Six Democrats and one independent, Rep. James Campbell, voted against recommending Webster’s nomination to the Senate. All six Republicans on the committee supported Webster.

Moretto said an alternative method of having Deschambault join the Senate on Friday was being explored. Attorney General Janet Mills said she was aware of the situation but declined to comment Friday morning.

UPDATE (11:30 a.m.): LePage’s office announced in letters to Senate President Mike Thibodeau Friday morning that the governor has pulled back three nominations, including Webster’s. Also pulled back were Wesley Richardson of Warren for the Maine Indian Tribal-State Commission and Emery Deabay of Bucksport for the Workers’ Compensation Board.

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.