This former Maine congressman wants to do something nobody’s done in 136 years

Former U.S. Rep. David Emery speaks at a 2006 Republican gubernatorial candidate forum in Dover-Foxcroft. (BDN file photo)

Without much fanfare, a former Maine congressman announced that he’s looking to re-enter the political arena this week.

After another Republican dropped out, David Emery of Tenants Harbor, who represented Maine’s 1st District from 1975 to 1983, is the only person who has publicly expressed interest in the party’s nomination for a seat now held by state Sen. David Miramant, D-Camden. Emery will likely be nominated at a caucus on Tuesday.

While the 67-year-old Emery has stuck around Maine politics — serving in Gov. Paul LePage’s budget department, for example — he has long been one race away from Maine’s A-list.

Democrat George Mitchell rocketed to stardom on a national stage after beating Emery in a 1982 U.S. Senate race. Emery entered as a favorite, but he was badly out-campaigned. He tried to get the 1st District seat back in 1990, but lost to Democrat Tom Andrews. He finished third in the Republican gubernatorial primary won by Chandler Woodcock in 2006.

His entry into this race is an anomaly: No former member of Congress has gone to the Maine Legislature since 1880, according to the invaluable Maine Law and Legislative Reference Library, which researched this at the Bangor Daily News’ request.

The full list assembled by the library isn’t comprehensive. But library staff found at least 33 former members of Congress who became state legislators. (There was some question about five of those people, as records were shoddy.)

Anson P. Morrill, photographed by Civil War-era journalist Mathew Brady.

The last one was Anson P. Morrill, who first went to the Maine House of Representatives in 1833. Elected governor in 1855, he went to Congress for a term in 1861 and back to the Maine House in 1880.

He’s less well-known than his brother, Lot Morrill, who was U.S. treasury secretary under President Ulysses S. Grant.

But titans of Maine’s political history are also on the list, including:

  • Hannibal Hamlin, who was Abraham Lincoln’s first vice president, served in the U.S. House for two terms before returning to the Maine House in 1847. He served in U.S. Senate — only breaking for a less-than-two-month stint as governor in 1857 — until being picked as vice president in the 1860 election, but getting dumped from the 1864 ticket and leaving office just months before Lincoln was killed.
  • William Pitt Fessenden, who was a leading U.S. Senate abolitionist and Lincoln’s treasury secretary from July 1864 to March 1865. He left the U.S. House after two years in 1843, going to the Maine House from 1845 to 1846 and 1853 to 1854, until his Senate election.
  • Eugene Hale, one of Maine’s under-appreciated statesmen and “a man of broad and genial social nature,” according to a biographer, served 30 years in the U.S. Senate from 1881 to 1911. But he also served 10 years in the U.S. House in the Reconstruction Era before going briefly to the Maine House from 1879 to 1880.
  • John Chandler is one of Maine’s best political stories. After serving in the Revolutionary War, he was illiterate and broke, but he borrowed money to buy a farm in Monmouth, becoming a prominent citizen who led a militia in the War of 1812. Before Maine’s statehood, he served in the Massachusetts Senate from 1803 to 1805, the U.S. House from 1805 to 1809 and the Massachusetts General Court in 1819. He became a Maine state senator briefly in 1820 before going to the U.S. Senate until 1829.
  • John Holmes, another Maine founding father who helped write the state constitution, was one of Maine’s two first U.S. senators at statehood, serving there from 1820 to 1827 and 1829 to 1833 before going to the Maine House from 1836 to 1837.

So, Emery will be in good company if he wins in November.

Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.