U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, headlined a rally in Portland on Monday to mobilize Maine women voters on behalf of the state’s candidates for Congress and governor.

She and other Democrats criticized the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling that allows closely held corporations to opt out, for religious reasons, of an Affordable Care Act requirement that they provide contraception coverage for women employees.

They also focused on the need to raise the minimum wage and ensure equal pay for equal work, while highlighting the need to put more women in elected office.

Wasserman Schultz spent most of her time speaking in support of Emily Cain’s candidacy for the 2nd Congressional District seat against Republican Bruce Poliquin.

More than 50 people, mostly women, attended.

Wasserman Schultz also talked about the governor’s race among Republican Gov. Paul LePage, Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud and independent Eliot Cutler, casting the incumbent as a tea party icon.

“The other choice is the Republican Party, which has been in the midst of a civil war that the tea party has clearly won,” Wasserman Schultz said at the Portland Public Library. “Their champion is Gov. LePage. So, we need to tell the poster child of the tea party that his time here is done. That 2010 was an anomaly.”

Brent Littlefield, LePage’s political adviser, suggested in an email that Maine Democrats were trying to

distract voters from the governor’s record of job creation and efforts to end domestic violence.

“This is just another example of partisanship at any cost for Mike Michaud and his Democratic team,” Littlefield wrote. “They ignore the fact that over 20,000 new private sector jobs have been created since Governor LePage took office and Maine now has a Governor who is focusing on ending domestic violence.”

Cutler’s campaign used the event to highlight Michaud’s so-called “evolution” on reproductive rights and equality issues, saying big name Democrats “can’t paper over Mike Michaud’s sorry 30-year record on issues that are important to women.”

“Maine’s women are watching and listening today – and I am certain they won’t be fooled by this charade,” Cutler campaign manager Ted O’Meara said in an email. “We are confident that when Maine citizens finally get a chance to see the candidates debate the issues facing our state, they will overwhelmingly choose Eliot as the leader Maine needs.”

The rally highlighted Democratic positions on women’s issues, such as equal pay, raising the minimum wage and access to health care.

Women are considered a key voting bloc in Maine, especially for Democrats.

“When women vote, Democrats win,” Wasserman Schultz said after the rally.

During the rally, she said the Hobby Lobby decision, along with Republican opposition to raising the minimum wage and bills that would ensure equal pay for equal work, are reasons why Cain should take Michaud’s seat in Congress.

Having more women in office, she said, is key to ending dysfunction in the national capitol.

“I am just so excited to have her come down to D.C. and fight side-by-side with us, because we are in a hell of a fight,” Wasserman Schultz said.

Cain said that raising the minimum wage is important, because the majority of minimum wage earners are women. Also, income inequality – she said a woman in Maine earns only 80 cents for every $1 a man makes – is holding back the economy.

“There is so much at stake,” said Cain, noting that if elected she would be the first female Democrat to represent 2nd district. “The role of women in the economy is essential to how we’re going to be successful as a state.”

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, who is being challenged by 25-year-old Republican Isaac Misiuk, was also on hand. Pingree and Michaud are co-sponsors of a bill that would reverse the Hobby Lobby ruling.

Michaud left the rally early so he could return to Washington to finishing working on a compromise bill designed to increase access to health care for veterans and improve accountability within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Shenna Bellows, who is trying to unseat U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, also did not attend; she is currently on a 350-mile “Walk Across Maine” from Houlton to Kittery.

Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @randybillings

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