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In Maine Government Women Hold Power

December 4, 2008

I marvel at the forward motion of Maine.

Maine’s glass ceiling developed a few more cracks Wednesday as women were sworn in as Senate president and House speaker. And in one of its first acts, the newly seated Legislature elected Maine’s first female attorney general.

“It’s so good to see things moving ahead,” said Janet Mills, a Democrat who won bipartisan support to become the state’s 55th attorney general. “Just because there are a lot of firsts doesn’t mean there can’t be a lot of seconds, thirds and fourths along the way. Maine men and women are sharing responsibilities more than in many other states, most other states.”

Also Wednesday after the formal swearing-in of the Democratic-controlled Legislature, Sen. Elizabeth “Libby” Mitchell of Vassalboro was elected the chamber’s president and Rep. Hannah Pingree of North Haven was elected House speaker.

Both were elected unanimously after minority Republicans, in a gesture of bipartisanship at the start of what’s expected to be a difficult session, threw their support behind the two Democrats. It’s the first time both of Maine’s legislative chambers are being headed by women at the same time.

And Mitchell is the first woman to have served as presiding officer in both the Maine House and Senate.

Maine has a history of electing and appointing women to lofty positions, although never a governor. The chief justice of the state supreme court, Leigh Ingalls Saufley, is a woman. Maine’s two U.S. senators, Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, soon will be joined in Washington by Democratic Rep.-elect Chellie Pingree, who was in Augusta Wednesday to see her daughter ascend to the House rostrum.

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