Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Cynthia Dill held a brief rally on the steps of Portland City Hall Wednesday to applaud the inclusion of same-sex marriage rights into the national Democratic Party platform.

The media event followed a recent unanimous decision by the party’s drafting committee to include marriage equality into the policy platform. The platform will be adopted during the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

Dill, who has been a frequent critic of independent Angus King during the Senate campaign, said that the Democratic Party’s commitment to gay rights showed that party affiliation was important. She said Democrats “walk the talk” when it comes to equal rights.

“Democrats take deliberate and thoughtful action when it comes to protecting Americans’ civil liberties, not just platitudes,” she said.

Dill is considered a long shot to defeat King and Republican Charlie Summers in November. However, if elected, she said she would side with Democrats and President Obama in repealing the Defensive of Marriage Act, or DOMA, a law that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman.

King supports the referendum effort to legalize same-sex marriage in Maine. Summers does not.

King said Wednesday that he probably would support the repeal of DOMA.

“I’m not in favor of Congress telling people who they should marry,” King said. “I’m a conservative.”

In a prepared statement, Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster said Dill’s news conference showed her and the Democratic Party’s misplaced priorities.

“At a time when people can’t find work, Cynthia Dill, Barack Obama and the Democratic Party have made homosexual marriage the most important part of their agenda,” Webster said. “I want to know what they’ve done about jobs lately.”

Webster also blasted Dale McCormick, a Dill supporter who recently resigned from the Maine State Housing Authority after a protracted and highly political battle with Republican state Treasurer Bruce Poliquin, the Maine Heritage Policy Center and board members appointed by Gov. Paul LePage who were hostile to her leadership.

Webster said McCormick was an “extreme liberal activist” and a bureaucrat who spent “thousands of taxpayer dollars on karate lessons, magicians, messages, lavish hotels and donations to liberal activist groups.”

Ben Grant, chairman of the Maine Democratic Party, took issue with Webster’s comments, saying Maine Republicans should “look in the mirror” when talking about job growth. Maine, he said, has lost 1,300 jobs under Gov. Paul LePage and is one of seven states with a shrinking economy.

Grant said the Obama administration could tout 27 straight months of private-sector job growth.

“Under Democratic leadership people will have the freedom to marry the people they love and experience economic opportunity,” he said.

It may seem odd that the Maine GOP would attack Dill, who is polling a distant third in the U.S. Senate race. However, GOP operatives have acknowledged that she needs to perform better in order to siphon Democratic support from King.

GOP not counting on King

Texas U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, hopes Angus King will caucus with the GOP if he’s elected in November. However, Cornyn said he’s not holding his breath.

Cornyn made those comments during an interview with C-SPAN last week. He added that his counterpart Patty Murray at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee was “doing nothing” to help the duly elected Democratic nominee, Dill.

Not much new is revealed in the clip as it furthers the narrative that King is simply a Democrat cloaked as an independent. However, it’s interesting that Cornyn and the NRSC continues to mention Dill, who Republicans will need to perform better in order to help their nominee, Summers.

So how do Republicans help Dill and do so subtly?

Michael Franz, a political science professor at Bowdoin College, said the GOP is already doing it by repeatedly saying that the DSCC has made a deal with King. Additionally, Franz said, the NRSC is hammering away at the King caucus question; it may seem a bit esoteric to everyday Mainers, but it feeds into the strategy of painting the former governor as someone who isn’t being totally straight with voters.

“If they can make (King) appear like he’s not who he says he is, that could drum up support for Dill,” Franz said.

Bumper sticker confusion

Regardless of which side you support on the gay marriage issue, there is one important difference from the 2009 campaign.

Three years ago, a yes vote meant you opposed gay marriage and a no vote meant you supported it. That’s because it was a people’s veto, which called for a repeal of a law.

This time around, it’s much clearer for voters. The question — “Do you want to allow the state of Maine to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples?” — means if you support it, you vote yes. If you don’t, you vote no.

So for those of you driving around with three-year-old bumper stickers, the Christian Civic League issued this reminder Thursday:

“The Christian Civic League reminds you that we are voting ‘No on One’ this fall. If you still have a ‘Yes on One’ bumper sticker from the campaign that overturned same-sex marriage, please remove it to avoid confusion.”

Steve Mistler — 791-6345

[email protected]

Susan Cover — 621-5643

[email protected]

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