Christian Voters Painting Liberal Maine Red

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AUGUSTA, Maine -- When you think of the state of Maine, natural beauty and liberal politics may come to mind. The state flag is a deep blue, reflecting the left-leaning ideologies that have dominated this state for decades.

But while the rocky coastline and lighthouses are still there, the political landscape is changing.

Voters in Maine have painted their state red. In fact, for the first time in more than 40 years, Republicans control the House, Senate and governorship.

"People were tired of the status quo. They were tired of having a very liberal agenda pushed on them, and the people spoke," freshman Rep. Ellie Espling, R-District 105, told CBN News.

Espling and fellow evangelical Christian Pastor Bob Emrich, who serves as the chairman of the board of the Christian Civic League of Maine, say the turning point came in 2009.

That's when voters in Maine said "no" to homosexual marriage after the state legislature legalized it.
    
Outraged citizens got together to put the issue on the ballot, and voters overturned the legislature, making marriage only between one man and one woman again.

But many in Maine felt it wasn't enough.

"That carried over into, 'Okay, now that vote's over, but how do we keep this from happening again?" Emrich explained. "We need to have more people, (a) different kind of people in the legislature."
    
Emrich and Espling say conservatives and Christians in Maine have been emboldened to get involved in politics.

Espling, whose husband is a pastor, said she and her spouse homeschool their four children. She told CBN News she believes God called her to run for public office.

"We did go through those doors, and it's been amazing," she told CBN News. "I was one of the top fundraisers in the state for House races."

Another sign of a greater evangelical Christian presence in Maine politics is the prayer caucus at the Statehouse in Augusta.

Lawmakers say the number of legislators praying on a regular basis has quadrupled recently.

"People standing up on the floor of the House, talking about Jesus, and seeing lots of colleagues leave, that's different," Espling said. "And I don't think they're used to that, and so that's exciting, yeah."

Veteran Democratic Rep. Donald Pilon, D-District 133, says he has seen more representatives being open about their faith.

"That's who the people voted in, and I think that we'll see if they have the ability to make a change for the state of Maine," Pilon said.     
 
The 2011 legislative session produced results this state isn't used to seeing.
    
Republicans and Democrats passed a $6 billion budget that Republicans say contains the largest tax cut in Maine's history.
    
But several pro-life bills did not pass, although Espling believes that can change if more social conservatives get elected.

"If we get more Christians involved and more Christians elected, that's even more pressure on our colleagues to say, 'You can vote your conscience,'" Espling said.

Emrich believes the voice of evangelical Christians and Catholics will be even stronger after the next election cycle.
   
Unity is important for social conservatives in Maine. Homosexual marriage advocates say they hope to put marriage on the ballot again in 2012.

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Mark Martin

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Mark Martin is a reporter and anchor at CBN News, covering various issues from military matters to alternative fuels. Mark has reported internationally in the Middle East and traveled to Bahrain to cover stories on the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkMartinCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/MarkMartinCBN.