Former Dem Rep. Joseph Brennan, who also served as Maine's governor, dead at 89

 April 7, 2024

Former Rep. Joseph Brennan (D-ME), who was also the former Democratic governor of Maine and a well-liked career politician, passed away on Friday at the age of 89, according to the Associated Press.

He died peacefully with his wife by his side at his home in the Portland neighborhood of Munjoy Hill, just a few blocks away from the tenement building where he was born and raised as one of eight children of Irish immigrant parents.

In addition to serving two terms as Maine's governor, Brennan served as a Democrat in both chambers of the state legislature, as a county district attorney and as the state attorney general, and two terms in Congress, plus a lengthy stint on the Federal Maritime Commission.

A career politician

According to News Center Maine, Brennan was born in 1934 in Portland, Maine, and graduated from high school in 1952, after which he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served the nation for two years in uniform.

Following his military service, Brennan used the G.I. Bill to attend and graduate from Boston College, then pursued a law degree at the University of Maine Law School, where he graduated first in his class.

By the mid-1960s, Brennan was practicing law at a firm in Portland when he launched a decades-long political career with a successful run for a seat in Maine's House, where he served three terms.

He was then elected in 1970 as the Cumberland County district attorney, then won a seat in the Maine Senate in 1972, where he served for three years until he was elected in 1975 to serve two terms as Maine's attorney general.

In 1978, Brennan was elected as Maine's 70th governor -- he was the first Democrat to win all 16 counties in the state since the Civil War -- and served two terms in that role. He followed that with two terms in Congress plus two more unsuccessful runs to reclaim the governorship in 1990 and 1994 and capped off his political career by serving under three presidents on the Federal Maritime Commission from 1999 until he retired in 2013.

Fondly remembered by friends and colleagues

According to the Portland Press Herald, Brennan's death was confirmed by close friend and former Sen. George Mitchell (D-ME), who said in a statement, "All of us who were fortunate to work with him learned from him how to deal with people and with important and sometimes difficult issues."

"He was a superb leader and lawyer who understood the importance of a firm and fair system of justice in our democracy. I worked with him and learned from him over many years," Mitchell, who was appointed in 1980 by then-Gov. Brennan to fill a Senate vacancy, per the AP, added. "His family and the people of Maine have lost a great man, and I have lost a dear friend."

Brennan was also remembered fondly by Jerry Conley Jr., whose father, former state legislator and Portland Mayor Gerard Conley, was another close friend of the former governor. Conley Jr. said Brennan "spent his entire life in service to the people of Maine" and was "the ultimate public servant."

Nancy Brenerman, who served six years in Brennan's administration, recalled the charm and humility of her former boss and his ability to connect with the average voter. "When he was talking to you, he wasn’t shaking your hand and looking at the next person," she said. "He was talking to you. Anyone could talk to him, from ordinary workers to the president of the United States."

Survived by his wife, children, and grandchildren

According to News Center Maine, Brennan got married in 1994 to Connie LaPointe, a Democratic activist who was also Citibank's vice president at that time. He is survived by her, along with their two children, J.B. and Tara, plus three grandchildren.

No announcements have been made yet about funeral arrangements or memorial services in honor of the beloved career politician.

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