BANGOR — Maine Democrats gathered in Bangor on Friday to kick off their two-day convention focused on firing up voters to unseat Republican Gov. Paul LePage in November.
At their own convention last month, Republicans promoted unity after uprisings revealed cracks in the party. For Democrats, this weekend’s convention offers a venue for congressional candidates to address voters just days ahead of the primary and for candidate Mike Michaud to rally support as he challenges LePage this fall.
Among Friday’s speakers were U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, the 1st District incumbent candidate, but most of the party’s candidates won’t be heard until Saturday.
While much of the attention has been on the governor’s race, party leaders hope to highlight the importance of maintaining Democratic control of the 2nd District seat, which was left open by Michaud’s decision to run for governor.
On Saturday, state Sens. Emily Cain and Troy Jackson, who are seeking the Democratic nomination, will get a last-minute chance to convince voters before the June 10 primary why their approach is the best to take to Washington.
Cain said she hopes to bring a positive message and discuss her experience working across the aisle to get things done in Augusta. Jackson’s campaign said his speech will highlight the logger from Allagash’s working-class background and his ability to relate to blue-collar Mainers.
Cain and Jackson will follow Shenna Bellows, who’s challenging Sen. Susan Collins. Michaud will address the crowd later Saturday.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who’s eyeing a presidential run in 2016, headlined the state Republican convention last month. Republicans quickly criticized Democrats for their lesser-known keynote speaker, R.T. Rybak, the former mayor of Minneapolis and a Democratic National Committee vice chairman.
“We’re actually fairly impressed that Maine Democrats managed to find a politician who’s even more obscure than Congressman Michaud to headline their convention,” David Sorensen, spokesman for the Maine Republican Party, said in a statement.
A Maine Democratic Party spokeswoman dismissed the criticism and said Democrats are focused on rallying support for Michaud.
In a statement announcing Rybak’s speech, party Chairman Ben Grant called him an “energetic and engaging leader.”
“We need to remind people what good government looks like after four years of Paul LePage in Augusta and GOP control of Congress in Washington,” he said.