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Bennett’s choice as GOP chair praised by local lawmakers

By Mike Lange
Staff Writer

    The election of Rick Bennett of Oxford as party chairman by the Maine State Republican Committee last week drew widespread praise from local elected officials.
    “He is definitely the right person for the job,” said State Rep. Paul Davis of Sangerville. “I worked with him when I was in the Senate. He’s fair, honest and articulate and he listens to all points of view.”

    Rep. Peter Johnson of Greenville agrees. “I was pleased with Rick’s selection as party chair. He has the right mix of experience and leadership to bring our party together to be successful in uniting all elements of our party,” Johnson said.
    Bennett succeeded Rich Cebra of Naples who abruptly resigned after only eight months on the job, and state GOP vice-chair Beth O’Connor followed suit. The committee named Susan Morissette of Winslow, the chair of the Kennebec County Republican Committee, to replace O’Connor.
    Bennett, 50, served four terms in the Maine Senate and two terms in the Maine House of Representatives. He served as Senate president in 2001-02 due to a unique power-sharing agreement. There were 17 Democrats, 17 Republicans and one independent in the State Senate at that time, so Bennett and then-State Sen. Mike Michaud each served one year as president.
    Bennett ran for Congress in 1994 and lost to Democrat John Baldacci in a relatively close race, and ran for U.S. Senate last year and lost to Charles Summers in the GOP primary. He is CEO of GMI Ratings, an independent research firm that focuses on corporate governance and compensation.
    “Rick Bennett is a well-respected and successful businessman,” said State Sen. Doug Thomas of Ripley. “He served his state well as president of the Senate. I expect he will get the Republican State Committee back on track in time for the next election.”
    Thomas added that the last two years “have been very interesting for the Maine GOP, to say the least. It’s time now to go back to work. I think Rick can get us all pulling in the same direction again; and if he does, watch out.”
    Thomas said that Morissette “brings a different prospective and balance to party leadership that should be very valuable in developing and delivering the GOP message.”
    Piscataquis County Commissioner James Annis said that Bennett’s choice “is a great move on the part of the committee. I had the privilege to work with Rick when he was in the Maine Senate and I was in the House. Rick was a down-to-earth legislator and listened carefully to any suggestions I, as a freshman legislator, might offer. I think he’ll do well as a leader and will be successful in reuniting the Republican Party. I look forward to big things happening as 2014 nears.”
    Annis said that he since he left the Legislature in 2008 due to term limits, “I’ve had very little to do with the state party. I have my hands full as treasurer of the Piscataquis County Republicans.”
    State Sen. Andre Cushing, who represents Dexter, Garland and Charleston, echoed the other lawmakers’ opinions. “I am very pleased that the state committee chose a proven leader with the poise and experience we need leading our party,” Cushing said. “Rick has a keen political intellect, a passion for politics and especially the Republican cause. I have had the pleasure of working with him off and on for more than 10 years, and feel he brings the right skills to the table as this important point in our party’s history.”

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