September 20, 2020

Dems to list prospective commissioner candidates

BANGOR – Penobscot County Democrats intend to draft a list later this month of prospective replacements for Penobscot County Commissioner Dick Blanchard who is leaving to become a state legislator.

The list will be developed at a Nov. 21 meeting in Old Town for county Democrats and then forwarded to Gov. John Baldacci, who could appoint someone from the list or choose another candidate.

“It’s really the governor’s call,” Jerry Palmer, chairman of the Penobscot County Democratic Committee, said Sunday.

Palmer himself was a gubernatorial appointment in 2000 when then-Gov. Angus King tapped him to become Penobscot County treasurer and replace Democrat Pat Blanchette who was elected to the Maine House of Representatives that year.

Blanchard has served four full four-year terms and was midway into his fifth term when he ran for and won the District 14 House seat, which covers Old Town and Indian Island. He is scheduled to be sworn in on Dec. 1.

As county commissioner, Blanchard represents the largest of the three districts, covering from Orono and Old Town to the eastern- and northernmost parts of the county. It’s from this same area, District 3, that a new commissioner will be drawn to replace Blanchard.

The Democrats don’t anticipate any problems in compiling a list of prospective replacements.

“There’s already been a lot of interest in this position,” Palmer said.

The committee expects to forward a list of four or five names, although Palmer said there could be more depending on the level of interest. During the meeting, prospective replacements can make their views known, but Palmer said the committee is avoiding holding an election-style process, which has been tried in the past and which he said can be contentious.

Once Baldacci gets the list, he’ll review it and make the appointment in what a spokesman for the governor’s office said should be a “fairly quick turnaround.”

“Generally these things move pretty fast,” said Lee Umphrey, spokesman for the governor.

Before Blanchard is sworn in as a legislator, there may be a few weeks during which there are only two Penobscot County commissioners, one Democrat, Peter Baldacci – the brother of the governor – and the other a Republican, Tom Davis.

That shouldn’t be a problem, Davis said Sunday. He has been on the board for 20 years, with Baldacci serving for 16 years. Over all those years he said they’ve managed to develop a lot of respect for each other and a good working relationship.

There will “be no problems with doing the county business with just the two of us,” Davis said.

That strong working relationship didn’t stop Davis from plugging his own party and quipping that Gov. Baldacci should “see the errors of his ways” and appoint a Republican instead of a Democrat. But he’s not holding out much hope for that.

The law is not on his side, according to officials, who said Baldacci will have to appoint someone from the same party as the departing commissioner.

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