BANGOR — Before his Saturday speech at the Democratic state convention, Troy Jackson was nervous.
With little money left in his campaign coffers and outside groups advertising against him in his primary bid against Emily Cain in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, he had a chance to gain favor among the party faithful.
“I don’t have the money to do commercials and stuff like that, so people are going to have to understand here today what the truth is,” Jackson said.
After that, Cain, an Orono state senator known for compromise, took the stage, followed by Jackson, the feisty Maine Senate majority leader from Allagash, showing a stark contrast in their styles — congenial vs. fiery.
All through the campaign, Jackson has billed himself as a fighter, talking most about issues he won’t compromise with Republicans on; but Cain has said she has advanced Democratic principles practically without compromising on them in her dealings with Republicans.
“In today’s political environment, being a fighter is simply not enough,” she said in her speech. “We need leaders who can bring people together and who bring the voice of Maine people to the table and stay there until they get the job done.”
That was a dig at Jackson, a Democrat with strong union support who has criticized her for much of that compromising.
It was no different in Jackson’s speech, in which he tearfully recounted being born to a 15-year-old mother who struggled to provide for him, saying compromise “is not why I’m running.”
As House minority leader, Cain supported a state budget that Jackson opposed in 2011 that contained a tax-cut package Democrats derided as being “for the rich.” Cain has said she voted for it because of other concessions she helped negotiate with Republicans.
“I won’t back down when Wall Street wants yet another bank and CEO bailout and hedge fund managers don’t want to be regulated,” Jackson said. “I won’t back down when some, even in our own party, want to hold hands with the tea party to extend tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.”
Cain highlighted many familiar differences with Jackson, but perhaps more gently.
Jackson has wavered on core Democratic social issues, voting against same-sex marriage in 2009 and casting some legislative votes on unsuccessful bills that would have restricted abortion rights. On Thursday, EMILY’s List, a pro abortion rights group, announced a “six-figure” ad campaign on Cain’s behalf.
“Politicians should not be involved in a woman’s personal medical decisions about her pregnancy,” she said, “period.”
She also highlighted her environmental record, a topic that has been a bone of contention of Jackson’s in the race since the League of Conservation Voters, a national group that endorsed Cain and announced a $150,000 mail campaign against Jackson earlier in May.
It’s an issue he has linked to the key figure in Maine’s Democratic establishment: S. Donald Sussman, the financier husband of U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, and the majority owner of the Kennebec Journal, Morning Sentinel and Portland Press Herald.
Sussman has donated to Cain and gave $25,000 to the League of Conservation Voters, a national environmental group, ahead of their April endorsement of Cain, who has raised much more money than Jackson during the campaign. He had $19,000 in his campaign coffers to her $145,000 as of May 21.
Jackson, a logger, didn’t shy away from those topics at the convention, a solidly establishment event dominated this year by outgoing Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud’s gubernatorial run. Jackson said he “sure as hell won’t back down” to “privileged elites that try to keep me quiet with their checkbooks.”
“I’m running because of income equality, poverty, unfairness, corporate greed and political cowardice,” Jackson said. “I have known these things my entire life, and I have watched them wreck communities and tear people’s lives and families apart.”
Both Cain and Jackson spoke of protecting Social Security benefits and expanding health care, with Cain saying she’d be the district’s “voice at the table” to work on improving Maine’s economy if sent to Washington.
But Pat Lawson, a Jackson supporter from Monroe, said Cain was less like a Democrat than she is like former U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, a Republican known for compromising.
“I feel he’s for the working person,” Lawson said of Jackson. “And he didn’t give a tax break to the rich, did he?”
Diane Grandmaison, of Lewiston, supports Cain, saying the candidate gives the party the best chance to win in November against the Republican in the race, either Kevin Raye or Bruce Poliquin.
“She has a great personality, but not only a great personality,” Grandmaison said of Cain. “She’s smart, she’s intelligent and she’s always learning.”