After two years at the helm of the Maine Democratic Party, Kathleen Marra said Sunday she is not seeking another term in the position.
Marra said she is “really proud” of the job she has done guiding the state party, which delivered Maine to President-elect Joe Biden but fell short in its quest to unseat longtime Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins.
Marra said the party is in a strong position, with a full staff and good finances, determined to do better about reaching out to minority communities.
She will continue to serve in the position until Jan. 24, she said, when the state committee will elect her successor.
So far, the only known contender is state Rep. Drew Gattine of Westbrook, who could not seek reelection because of term limits.
Another possible challenger, Chris Johnson of Sommerville, the chair of the Lincoln County Democrats, said Sunday he thought about running but when he heard of Gattine’s interest, he decided to steer clear.
Gattine, he said, has the experience and integrity for the job and the necessary awareness of people’s needs.
Johnson said the Democratic Party “hasn’t made enough of a difference” for decades to address growing income inequality and the difficulty for low-income people to get by.
“It’s time for us to take bolder action,” Johnson said, and to push for fundamental changes that would help people deal with medical and college costs along with the squeeze so many feel as they try to stretch paychecks.
Marra, who had chaired the Kittery Municipal Democratic Committee, took the helm in 2019, with the backing of Gov. Janet Mills. Her background, she said, was in grassroots activism, not “insider politics.”
She said she faced “a big learning curve” when she came into the position with a staff that had dwindled to just two people because the Mills administration and others have poached so many others.
Marra said she was lucky to have Lisa Roberts remain to serve as executive director. Together, they hired a new crew that included the party’s first digital director and first development director.
Marra said the party has a full staff that she considers amazing.
It is not easy to give up her position, she said, because heading the party has been “the best job I ever had.”
Marra said she enjoyed a close working relationship with the national party, including its chairman, Tom Perez, who has “done a fabulous job” of making the party nimbler.
In Maine, Marra said, the party is trying hard to do a better job listening to people in communities that are often marginalized, including new Mainers and indigenous Mainers.
It plans to hire a constituency manager soon to do more to reach out and broaden the party’s base.
“We have to listen better,” Marra said, including divergent voices within the party and to the many people who voted for Donald Trump.
Marra said she would love to be among those doing that listening.
But her husband, retired U.S. Navy Capt. Michael McCarten, a former commanding officer of the NATO Hospital in Afghanistan, wants to spend more time close to his family in Rhode Island, Marra said.
Marra said she and her husband have “a really beautiful spot on the water” picked out there that should be ready by next summer.