BANGOR – Maine Republicans kicked off their convention on Friday by urging party unity as they attempt to re-elect Gov. Paul LePage and regain majorities in the state Legislature.
On the heels of the 2012 convention that highlighted divisions within Maine’s GOP, Republicans emphasized the importance of bringing together all factions of the party for a common cause this year.
“We need to be united in our efforts to work for a better Maine,” said Cary Weston, a former mayor of Bangor who is running for state Senate.
The party on Friday adopted a new platform that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman and urges the repeal of the Common Core Standards, uniform educational benchmarks in reading, writing and math.
The platform also praises LePage and GOP lawmakers for enacting the largest tax cut in Maine history and preventing the Democratic-controlled Legislature from expanding Medicaid under the federal health care law.
Absent are several planks added in 2010, when the platform was catered to tea party tastes and included a desire to eliminate the Department of Education and the Federal Reserve and a reference to global warming as a “myth.”
Much of the action takes place on Saturday, when Republicans will hear speeches from LePage and the congressional candidates. North Carolina Gov. Patrick McCrory and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, of Kentucky, also will speak on Saturday, drawing criticism from Maine Democrats.
“I couldn’t be more enthusiastic about the Maine GOP’s theme of ‘unity’ this year,” Ben Grant, chairman of the Maine Democratic Party, said in a statement. “In rallying around Paul LePage, Rand Paul and Pat McCrory, the GOP is proving to everyone in Maine that they are unified behind catastrophic policies that harm the middle class and damage our economy.”
On Friday, state legislative leaders introduced to the party the candidates for state House and Senate, blasted Democrats who control the Legislature for their continuous attempts to expand Medicaid and applauded Republicans’ ability to stop Democratic proposals in their tracks this session.
“Thanks to Paul LePage and his veto pen and our votes in the Maine House and Senate, we were able to stop an avalanche of liberal legislation that would have crushed Maine’s economic recovery,” said House Republican Leader Ken Fredette, of Newport.
As party officials promised, the first day of the convention went more smoothly than in 2012, when Ron Paul supporters took over and elected a majority slate of delegates for the presidential candidate.
Moderate Republicans challenged that decision and half of the delegates were replaced at the national convention with Mitt Romney supporters, creating a rift between the factions of the GOP.
With less drama this year, Republicans will be able to focus on learning about the candidates and getting to know members of the party, said GOP Chairman Rick Bennett.
“The most important thing is that this is a chance to showcase our candidates and find a common cause and a common message, to leave united to take on that campaign year.”