Fresh off a strong showing in the November elections, the Maine Democratic Party chose new leaders Sunday to guide it through the next two years.
The Maine Democratic State Committee, the party’s governing body, elected Kathleen Marra of Kittery as its chairwoman and Erik Gundersen of Portland as vice chairman.
Marra and Gundersen, chosen at a meeting in Augusta, will begin serving immediately.
Their predecessors, Chairman Phil Bartlett and Vice Chairwoman Peggy Schaffer, announced in November that they would not seek re-election after Democrats won the governor’s race, both U.S. House seats, and majorities in the Maine House and Senate.
“We are confident that the work we’ve done over the last four years has positioned the party for success heading into the next election cycle,” Bartlett and Schaffer said in a statement posted Sunday on the Maine Democratic Party’s website.
The elections of Marra and Gundersen came one day after the Maine Republican Party, which suffered significant losses in November, re-elected Saco dentist Demi Kouzounas as its chairwoman and elected Waterville Mayor Nick Isgro as the vice chairman.
Isgro became controversial last year after he issued tweets criticizing David Hogg, a Parkland, Florida, high school shooting survivor. A recall effort to remove him from office in Waterville failed.
On Saturday, Bartlett issued a parting shot at Isgro.
“By choosing Nick Isgro as one of their party leaders, they’re sending a clear message to Mainers that they’re looking to continue the hateful and divisive rhetoric that was so prominent during the LePage administration,” Bartlett said in a statement.
Jason Savage, executive director of the Maine Republican Party, did not respond to an email Sunday night seeking reaction to Bartlett’s comments.
“I am honored to serve as the Chair of the Maine Democratic Party and humbled by the trust that the Maine Democratic State Committee has placed in me,” Marra said in a statement. “The Democratic Party is a reflection of America. We are a diverse group, and although we don’t always agree, the experiences, issues and ideals we each bring to the table make us a vibrant party that represents the interests of our state and nation.”
In an email Sunday night, Marra described herself as an activist and political organizer.
“While activism plays a strong part in my beliefs I also feel that the Democratic Party should lead with its head as well as its heart,” she wrote.
Marra, who has served as chairwoman of the Kittery Democratic Committee and vice chairwoman of the York County Democratic Committee, said she recently sold a business she owned so that she can devote her time to the Maine Democratic Party and to making sure a Democrat wins Susan Collins’ seat in the U.S. Senate in 2020.
She attended the Women’s Campaign School at Yale Law School last summer and is currently enrolled in the master’s of political management program at George Washington University.
Gundersen serves as policy adviser to House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, and has spent the past eight years working for the Maine House Democrats.