- Associated Press - Thursday, July 17, 2014

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - National Republican groups eager to flip more state Legislatures over to GOP control said Thursday the Maine House of Representatives and Senate are among their top targets this year.

Leaders of the Republican Legislative Campaign Committee and the Republican State Leadership Committee said in a conference call that the two chambers are among their “Sweet 16 Targets,” where they see opportunities to pick up Republican majorities in November.

Maine Republicans swept into the majority in both chambers in 2010 for the first times in decades, but Democrats quickly regained control two years ago.

RSLC President Matt Walter said that, among other things, having popular Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins on the ticket will help state GOP lawmakers on election day.

Walter said the group intends to go on offense with a 50-state strategy to expand beyond the 60 of the 99 chambers that Republicans currently hold nationally. He wouldn’t discuss specifics about how much money the group plans to spend in states.

Of the 35 members in the Senate, 19 are Democrats, 15 are Republicans and 1 is unenrolled, which means that the GOP would need to pick up only three seats to take control. Republicans would have to pick up nearly 20 seats in the 151-person House, where there are 89 Democrats, 58 Republicans, 2 independents and 2 unenrolled.

Rachel Irwin, a spokeswoman for Maine’s Democratic Party, said in an email that they “hear this same spin every election cycle.” She said that Democrats have a strong slate of candidates and momentum on their side.

“Republicans can’t run from away from their extreme records or allegiance to (Gov.) Paul LePage and his divisive policies,” she said.

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