The Maine House of Representatives voted to make Democratic Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross of Portland the first Black elected as speaker of that body.

Ross, who has represented Portland in the House for six years and served as president of Portland’s NAACP branch, has established herself as an activist for civil rights, social justice and criminal reform issues throughout the state.

Portland has an estimated 68,408 residents as of April 2020, according to census data. Blacks make up 7.1% of Portland’s population and just 1.2% of the state population, according to the 2016 American Community Survey.

Ross, noting her unanimous election Wednesday, said the upcoming session of the legislature is the most diverse in the state’s history.

“Each of us, 151 lawmakers, are here to represent the varied and at times seemingly diverse interests of people from every part of our beloved state, where we live, work, raise our families and worship,” she said. “We are here to shine a light on the problems facing our state and to seek solutions. But we are also here to realize the opportunity and put our value for the common good into action, illuminating the best path forward to a just, healthy and equitable society.”

Ross’ father, Gerald, served as the first Black legislator in Maine about five decades ago. She is the fourth woman in Maine’s history elected to lead the House.

Ross joins less than a handful of Black women elected to lead state-level legislative bodies including Linda Cropp, chairman of the D.C. Council, Karen Bass, the California State Assembly, and Adrienne Jones of the Maryland House of Delegates.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *