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Former Maine Governor Joseph E. Brennan has died at the age of 89

Maine Gov. Joseph Brennan, left, enjoys a laugh with U.S. Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware during the opening ceremonies at Maine's Democratic presidential straw poll in Augusta, Maine, Friday, Sept. 30, 1983.
AP
Maine Gov. Joseph Brennan, left, enjoys a laugh with U.S. Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware during the opening ceremonies at Maine's Democratic presidential straw poll in Augusta, Maine, Friday, Sept. 30, 1983.

Former Maine Governor Joseph E. Brennan has died at the age of 89. Brennan was a Democrat who served in the Blaine House from 1979 to 1987, and went on to serve two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Brennan grew up in Portland and spent much of his life in public service, as Cumberland County District Attorney, as a legislator in the Maine House and Senate, and as Maine’s Attorney General, before becoming governor. He later served as a member of the Federal Maritime Commission.

Brennan is being remembered by Governor Janet Mills as the son of Irish Immigrants, whose career was guided by core principles of "hard work, fairness and friendship" that he learned growing up in Portland's working class Munjoy Hill neighborhood.

“I saw Joe Brennan’s character and decency up close when I worked for him when he was Attorney General, " Mills said. "In 1980, Governor Brennan took a chance on a young woman lawyer, appointing me as Maine’s first woman District Attorney, over the objections of a number of men at the time. That appointment, little did I know then, put me on the path years later to become the first woman to serve as Governor of Maine. "

In a statement, Mills said Brennan demonstrated that politics is about building relationships.

Former Governor John Baldacci, who served as a Democrat in the state senate during Brennan’s time in the Blaine House, says Brennan believed that he had an obligation to make things better.

 “We campaigned together and would sometimes travel together to events in Bangor. He was always a gentleman, he was always prepared, and he recognized that while Maine might be organized around towns and cities, our state’s real foundation is built upon the families who live and work here," Baldacci said in a statement. "Like my father, he conducted politics the right way – with honesty and integrity. He treated people the way he wanted to be treated.”

 And Democratic Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, who serves in the seat once held by Brennan, said she will miss Governor Brennan's guidance and friendship.

 "I do not think it would be wrong to suggest that he was one of Maine's greatest Governors. Joe was deeply committed to social justice, economic equality, and protecting our environment," Pingree said.

According to the National Governor's Association, Brennan graduated from Boston College and the University of Maine School of Law, and served in the U.S. Army from 1953 to 1955.

“Governor Brennan’s philosophy was perhaps best summed up by the slogan featured on one of his campaign buttons: ‘every one counts'," said Governor Mills. "On behalf of the people of Maine, I extend my deepest condolences to Joe’s wife Connie, his children, J.B. and Tara, and the entire Brennan family.”