LePage taps former Bangor Sen. Farnham for education board seat

BDN photo by John Clarke Russ

Gov. Paul LePage has chosen Nichi Farnham for a seat on the nine-member State Board of Education.

Farnham, a Bangor Republican, served one term in the state Senate representing District 32, which includes Bangor and Hermon. She lost her bid for re-election in November to Democrat Geoffrey Gratwick following a contentious race dominated by spending from outside groups.

Outside groups aligned with Democrats and Republicans poured more than $450,000 into the Farnham-Gratwick matchup, making it the most expensive legislative race in the state.

Democrats targeted Farnham’s race from the start of the 2012 campaign season, labeling her in July one of five Republican senators who served as “rubber stamps” for LePage’s agenda.

In October, Democrats lodged a Maine Ethics Commission complaint against Farnham after the Maine Senate Republican Majority PAC spent $73,000 on ads targeting Gratwick. Democrats alleged Farnham illegally funneled the money into her race since the PAC’s paperwork listed her as a principal officer.

The Maine Ethics Commission cleared Farnham of wrongdoing after she told the panel she had no involvement in the PAC and had only volunteered her name as a “placeholder” while the committee was transitioning to new officers. The ethics commission penalized the Senate Republican Majority PAC for failing to update its registration documents with the names of its new officers.

While Farnham herself was cleared, the Democratic Party and allies made the ethics commission complaint a key part of their campaign against her.

LePage officially notified Senate President Justin Alfond and House Speaker Mark Eves on Monday he was selecting Farnham for the State Board of Education vacancy. Before serving in the state Senate, Farnham chaired the Bangor City Council and served on the city’s school committee.

If confirmed by the Senate, Farnham would join William Beardsley, who served as LePage’s conservation commissioner until this past summer, on the education board. LePage nominated Beardsley for the post in August 2012.

The State Board of Education acts in an advisory capacity to the education commissioner and makes policy recommendations to the state Legislature. The board also approves school construction projects and sets standards for teacher certification.