Democrats at individual town and city caucuses across the state Sunday rallied local efforts to preserve the party’s majorities in the Maine Legislature and to regain the governor’s office it lost in 2010.
Candidates or their representatives visited the caucuses to pitch campaign platforms and urge voters to support Democratic candidates in November. Some also gathered signatures to get on the ballot or collected the necessary $5 donations to qualify for Maine Clean Election Act money.
Many speakers emphasized the importance of backing U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-2nd District, in his bid to unseat Republican Gov. Paul LePage. The gubernatorial race is expected to be a three-way contest between Michaud, LePage and independent Eliot Cutler, who narrowly lost to LePage in 2010 in another three-way race.
Democrats hope to avoid a repeat of 2010 when their candidate, Libby Mitchell, garnered less than 20 percent of the votes.
Rep. Gay Grant, D-Gardiner, told attendees at the Gardiner caucus that the Democrats need to hold on to their majorities in the Maine Senate and House of Representatives to move the state forward when Michaud is elected in November.
“We’ve got to make sure that happens. He needs our support,” she said.
Grant said the one time she felt like crying when driving home from the State House was when the Legislature narrowly failed to override LePage’s veto of a bill to accept federal money to expand Medicaid.
“That’s when I learned that numbers matter. We have to keep this majority,” she told attendees at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Gardiner.
Grant, who represents Gardiner and Randolph in District 59, will be running for election in District 83, which includes Gardiner and Farmingdale. New district lines were approved by the Legislature last June.
David Bustin, a former Hallowell mayor and Democratic state legislator, and his recently announced opponent for the Democratic nomination for Senate District 14, Louis Sigel, also spoke to caucus attendees in Gardiner.
“I want to be part of the Democratic majority to prevent the incumbent governor to continue to drag the state down as far as he’s done already,” said Bustin, of Hallowell. “I think if you think you’ve seen something already, if he gets re-elected, you ain’t seen nothing yet.”
Sigel, of Gardiner, said he’s never run for political office, but he’s served as the secretary for the Kennebec County Democratic Committee and said he’s been active on the party’s platform committee. Besides announcing his intention to run on his personal Facebook page Feb. 20, Sigel said he hadn’t yet publicly announced his plan to run for the Senate seat.
In an enthusiastic six-minute speech, Sigel called for the restoration of education funding and the historical levels of municipal revenue sharing, as well as the expansion of Medicaid and the legalization of marijuana.
He also spoke at the Pittston caucus, which drew about six people to the Pittston town office Sunday afternoon.
The senator currently serving the district most similar to the new District 14, Sen. Patrick Flood, R-Winthrop, doesn’t plan on running for re-election.
With the switching of Litchfield for Readfield, the district similar to the current District 21 will include Gardiner, Hallowell, Chelsea, Farmingdale, Manchester, Monmouth, Pittston, Randolph, Readfield, West Gardiner and Winthrop
Earle McCormick, a West Gardiner selectman who held the seat for six years before Flood, plans on running for the Republican nomination for the district.
Democratic caucuses are held in towns and cities every two years to elect state convention delegates, municipal committee officers and county committee members.
Rep. Tim Marks, D-Pittston, the convener of the Pittston caucus, said he was considering running for Flood’s seat but will instead run for re-election for his House seat. The goal of the party, he said, is to hold on to the majorities in the Legislature and elect Michaud as governor.
Two attendees of the Gardiner caucus, Albert and Elizabeth Conary, both 78 years old, said they were still waiting to decide who to support for governor. Albert Conary said he’d like the governor to do more for them, but he doesn’t know who he will support in November.
However, they both said they support their representative, Grant, and the work she’s done.
Before the caucuses, Ben Grant, chairman of the Maine Democratic Party, told the Associated Press the focus of the gatherings would be a grassroots movement that supports working class Mainers. The Democratic State Convention will be held in late May at the newly opened Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.