There will be some notable absences among the dozens of political devotees from Maine attending the Democratic and Republican national conventions later this summer — namely, several of the people hoping to represent the state in Congress next year.

Modern national party conventions are largely about galvanizing the base and formally introducing — in the best possible light — the respective presidential nominees to the American public. However, the massive pep rallies are also a chance for elected leaders to connect with party activists in order to build cohesion ahead of important local races.

With this year’s conventions scheduled for late August and early September, however, some candidates for Maine’s U.S. House and Senate races are opting to stay home and campaign.

For instance, both Rep. Mike Michaud, D-2nd District, and his Republican challenger, Kevin Raye of Perry, plan to skip the events.

“The congressman has a competitive campaign this year, and we typically are ramping up the campaign at that time,” said Michaud’s chief of staff, Peter Chandler, when asked about Michaud’s participation in the Democrats’ Sept. 3-6 convention in Charlotte, N.C. “The congressman feels it is important to be back home in Maine at that time.”

Raye, who as state Senate president is one of the state’s top GOP officials, said he didn’t even bother seeking election as a delegate to the Republican convention, scheduled for Aug. 27-30 in Tampa, Fla.


“Given my campaign and knowing how precious time is, I thought my time was best spent in the state,” Raye said.

Like Raye and Michaud, candidates across the country are weighing whether to attend the conventions. The head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the political organization that works to maintain and build the Democratic ranks in the House, recently told his members to stay home this year.

“If they want to win an election, they need to be in their districts,” U.S. Rep. Steve Israel, a New York Democrat and chairman of the DCCC, said at a summit organized by the Reuters news service last week. “I don’t care if the president was at 122 percent favorability right now. … I think (candidates) should be in their districts.”

Israel’s latter statement is a reference to GOP suggestions that Democratic members of Congress facing tight races were avoiding the convention because they didn’t want to be linked to President Barack Obama in the minds of voters back home.

The reality is the timing of both conventions so late in the summer — after Labor Day, in the Democrats’ case — is clearly on the minds of candidates from both parties.

Although not regarded as a swing state in the presidential election, Maine could help decide which parties control both the House and the Senate.


Raye, a veteran state lawmaker who also worked on Capitol Hill, is widely regarded as Michaud’s most formidable challenger in years. U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe’s abrupt decision to retire after this year has opened up a Senate seat that had been considered safely Republican. While former Gov. Angus King, an independent, is the current front-runner in that race, Republican Secretary of State Charlie Summers and state Sen. Cynthia Dill, D-Cape Elizabeth, are hoping to close the gap in the coming months.

A spokesman for Dill’s campaign, Bob Mentzinger, said in an email on Friday that Dill has “passed on attending the convention, opting instead to stay in Maine and listen to voters.”

Neither Summers nor his campaign officials could be reached for comment on Friday.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, plans to join her fellow Democrats in Charlotte for at least part of the event.

“She hasn’t made her exact plans, but she does plan to be there,” Kate Simmons, Pingree’s campaign spokeswoman, said Friday afternoon. Simmons added that Pingree is “looking forward to being with so many people who want to re-elect President Obama” and Democrats to other state offices.

Pingree is married to financier S. Donald Sussman, a contributor to Democratic and charitable causes and the majority share owner of MaineToday Media, which owns The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal in Augusta, the Morning Sentinel in Waterville and other media outlets in Maine.


Pingree’s challenger in November, state Sen. Jonathan Courtney, R-Springvale, still is deciding whether to attend the GOP convention, campaign spokesman Keith Herrick said. Herrick added that he has already scheduled Courtney, the Senate majority leader, to attend several events that week.

Expect many of Maine’s other top elected and party officials to attend their respective conventions, however. Gov. Paul LePage, for instance, plans to be in Tampa for the GOP event, his spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said. Republican Sen. Susan Collins also plans to attend.

It was unclear Friday, however, whether Snowe, who has been harshly critical of the level of partisanship in Congress, will be in Tampa. Her office said Snowe is not a delegate to the convention, but a final decision has not been made as to whether she will attend any part of the event.

Kevin Miller — 317-6256

[email protected]

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