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Rachel Talbot Ross is set to become the first Black speaker of the Maine House

Maine Senate
Robert F. Bukaty
/
AP
State Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross is seen at the State House, Tuesday, April 12, 2022 in Augusta, Maine.

A Portland representative made history on Thursday when she was became the first Black lawmaker ever nominated to preside over the Maine House.

Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross defeated a fellow lawmaker from Portland, Ed Crockett, to secure the House Speaker nomination from her fellow Democrats for the upcoming legislative session. A longtime campaigner on civil rights, social justice and criminal justice reform issues, Talbot Ross was first elected to the Legislature six years ago and made history two years ago by becoming the first Black lawmaker elected to a leadership position within her caucus. The 62-year-old formerly headed the NAACP in Maine as well as Portland's equal opportunity and multicultural affairs program.

“I’m deeply humbled,” Talbot Ross told reporters after the Democratic caucus meeting. “And I’m honored to be able to work on behalf of the people of Maine, to share the leadership with my Republican colleagues in the leading the House, to join President (Troy) Jackson and to support Gov. Mills in moving forward her agenda in the next four years.”

Talbot Ross’s ascension to House Speaker comes 50 years after her father, Gerald Talbot, made history to become the first Black person ever elected to the Maine Legislature. It was a history that obviously weighed heavily on the Speaker-elect as she recalled first visiting the House chamber with her father decades ago and seeing the lack of diversity among lawmakers. She is also only the fourth woman to preside over the Maine House, which is the third-highest elected office in Maine after the governor and Senate President.

But Talbot Ross said the newly elected House is more diverse than every before and that she hopes all of those voices will help guide decisions that benefit all Mainers.

"What I would like to do is take all of the voices, all of the lived experiences – so very different from the top of the state to the bottom – and to really listen to those, to use all of that experiences to the best of our ability,” she said. “I am not the only one making history. We all are making history today. I am proud of my state. I am proud of my colleagues and I can't wait to get out there and get to work."

Talbot Ross will have to be officially elected by the full House on December 7. But the vote is more of a formality because Democrats have a comfortable majority in the chamber.

Democrats also elected Rep. Mo Terry of Gorham as House majority leader and Rep. Kristen Cloutier of Lewiston as assistant majority leader.

Earlier this week, House Republicans elected Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham, a lobsterman from Winter Harbor, to serve as minority leader. Rep. Amy Arata of New Gloucester, who runs a property investment business and a mechanical engineering firm with her husband, was elected as assistant minority leader.