Like father, like daughter? Maine GOP chairman’s daughter, 19, running for No. 2 post

If nothing changes prior to the Maine Republican State Committee’s election of officers on Saturday, Chairman Rick Bennett will be joined at the top of the ticket by his 19-year-old daughter, Abigail Bennett, who is running for vice chairwoman.

Though candidates in internal political party elections can be nominated up until minutes before the vote, neither Bennett is aware of any challengers for the top two slots, which are among several elections scheduled for Saturday.

Abigail Bennett said she made the decision to run for vice chairwoman last week and notified Republicans in a mass email on Friday. The vice chair’s seat is open because the current occupant, Sue Morissette, is stepping down.

“Yes, I am Chairman Rick Bennett’s daughter,” she wrote in the email. “However, I want to assure you that I’ve chosen to run on my own terms. This is an independent position. I will dedicate myself to work as an officer independently elected by the state committee.”

Abigail Bennett, a first-year economics major at the University of Maine in Orono, is active in both Maine College Republicans, Students for Liberty and #GEN207, an initiative launched by the Maine GOP in 2013 to attract young voters and volunteers. She has also been involved as a volunteer with the Maine Republican Party.

Maine Republican Party Chairman Rick Bennett. BDN photo by Michael C. York

Maine Republican Party Chairman Rick Bennett. BDN photo by Michael C. York

Bennett said Monday that her priority as vice chairwoman would be recruitment.

“I think I have a special opportunity to grow the party by attracting youth members,” she said. “I’m going to do that by encouraging them to realize how important politics are in their daily lives.”

Paula Sutton, who lost to Democrat David Miramant in a bid for the Warren-area Senate seat in November 2014, was previously a candidate for the vice chair’s seat. She wrote in an email to Maine Republican Committee members over the weekend that she was pulling her name from consideration for vice chair because of recent life changes that will consume too much of her time. Rick Bennett said Sutton pulled her name from consideration prior to his daughter’s entrance in the election and that Abigail Bennett made the decision on her own.

“It’s a little unusual and it’s kind of a strange position for me to be in, but I would have no trouble working with her, or I think she with me,” said Rick Bennett, who said he first joined the Republican State Committee in 1984 at age 20. “As a dad I’m proud of her for putting herself out there and trying to do what’s in her heart.”

The Republican State Committee will decide on a slate of officers and a range of other issues beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Gov. Hill Mansion in Augusta.

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.