Sangerville man thinks good acts trickle down
AUGUSTA - In his spare time, Sen. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville, likes to hunt, fish and ski. But his biggest joy outside the State House is auctioneering for charities and fund-raisers."Just put a microphone in my hand and give me a bunch of junk to sell," Davis says with a gleam in his eye, "and we'll have some fun."
In a recent stint to raise money for a Litchfield teenager who needed a kidney transplant, Davis sold a pound of fudge made by the patient's mother for $250.
"I do it for nonprofits," Davis said. "I've raised probably a half-million dollars in the last six or seven years."
For the next two years, Davis will log a lot of time at the microphone in the state Senate chamber. After serving a term as assistant Republican floor leader, Davis steps up to the minority leader's spot.
Now beginning his third two-year term, Davis assumes his new role as GOP caucus leader and spokesman with relish.
Coming from the small town of Sangerville, Davis is the only House or Senate leader from northern Maine. But he doesn't see himself as a spokesman for regional interests, and tries to keep fundamental Republican goals - smaller government, lower taxes and less government interference in business - in sight.
"I think if we do good things for Maine's people, it will trickle down to all of the people," said Davis, who is 55.
Davis grew up in Dexter, where he attended high school before taking college courses and receiving an associate degree from the University of Maine. He served six years in the Army National Guard before going to work for the Newport Police Department for a year and a half.
In 1971, he joined the state police force, rising to patrol supervisor over 23 years. He capped his law enforcement career with three years as chief deputy in the Somerset County Sheriff's Department.
During his years patrolling the highways of northern Maine, Davis often thought he would like to serve in the Legislature - and the Senate in particular. He felt he could have a more effective voice given the Senate's smaller size, 35 members compared to 151 in the House.
"I spent 18 years in Piscataquis County patrolling around. My name recognition was extremely high," said Davis, who has been married for 33 years and has two grown children.
In 1998, Davis got his first big opportunity to run for office when Republican Sen. Stephen Hall of Guilford decided to step down after serving three terms. Davis beat his Democratic opponent with 55 percent of the vote.
In his second term, he surprised even himself when he advanced to the Senate's GOP leadership.
"I certainly never thought I'd be in leadership," Davis said. "It was probably in the back of my mind that I would like to be, but it's a long way between wanting it and getting it."
Davis' term as GOP leader begins in an atmosphere of wariness if not outright distrust between the two parties, in contrast to the historic glow of bipartisanship under which the previous session was launched.
Davis steps to the head of the caucus as a close election and recount in District 16 give a one-seat majority to the Democrats. Davis and other Republicans pushed throughout the process to have 44 disputed ballots released to the public, only to be turned down by election officials.
From his law enforcement point of view, the denial makes no sense to Davis.
"If somebody is charged with murder, people can come in [to court] and see the evidence," he said. "But the ballots in a Senate district in Maine - people can't look at them? What's being hidden? What's wrong with disclosure?"
Looking at the session ahead, relations between the two parties could be determined by the final outcome in the District 16 race, Davis said.
"If it's done in a fair manner and people feel it's been an honest, impartial count, we can put this behind us," Davis said. If not, "I think it's going to hang over us for the next two years, and maybe longer."
Even if Republicans remain in the minority in the Senate, as they are in the House, Davis does not see the GOP caucus as locked out of the process in the two years ahead.
Republican votes will become critical, Davis said, when it comes time to balance a state budget without a tax increase. Democratic Gov.-elect John Baldacci has said he is committed to avoiding a tax increase.
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