Hillary Clinton brought her 2016 presidential campaign to Maine for the first time Friday, telling an overflow crowd at a Portland middle school that she would need their help on the road to the White House.

“We can’t let the hard work President Obama has done be ripped away,” said Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination in the 2016 presidential race. “Our country does better, our economy does better when there is a Democrat in the White House.”

The small but lively crowd of about 400 people at King Middle School clapped and occasionally rose to their feet during Clinton’s remarks.

The former secretary of state and U.S. senator from New York didn’t take questions from the audience, but ran through her positions from supporting unions and a woman’s right to choose, to her opposition to drilling in the Arctic and the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision.

She repeatedly brought up the idea of promoting policies of economic fairness.

“I believe in the balance of power. So much power is in the hands of the rich,” she said, decrying an “abstract ideology that is all about helping the rich and no one else.”

“We cannot go back there. We have to stand for our country,” she said.

Clinton also said health care policy must include help for drug addicts, saying she would provide more support and resources to deal with heroin and opioid addiction, including outfitting law enforcement officers with the anti-overdose drug Narcan.

“I’m going to keep talking about it. I think it’s one of the most important health issues we face,” she said.

Maine Sen. Stanley Gerzofsky said Clinton’s willingness to dig deep into various policy issues, including drug policy, this early in the campaign distinguishes her. It’s not just the same stump speech, he said.

“She’s been listening. She’s been studying the issues,” said Gerzofsky, wearing a “I’m Hillary’s #1 fan” button he got at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration. “Right now there is a lot of excitement. People are going to move on to accountability and away from the hype. That’s where I think Hillary is going to continue to shine brighter and brighter, just like I saw today.”

Clinton poked fun at Republican candidate Donald Trump’s breezy policy statements during her talk: ” ‘I’m gonna build a wall. Tell you how later,'” she said, mimicking Trump’s staccato speaking style. “Eventually people are going to say, wait a minute. … We decide on what kind of future we want by who we vote for.”

She struck a chord with the audience on women’s issues, drawing a standing ovation and sustained applause when she said she would defend a woman’s right to choose.

“I really like the idea of a girl being president! I think that’s a huge step in the right direction,” said Sidonia Summers, 12, a seventh-grader at King who was beaming after getting a selfie with Clinton following the event.

“She was on fire tonight. She didn’t hold back. I like the fierceness she brought here,” said Lael Couper Jepson of Portland, who also attended a Clinton fundraiser in Cape Elizabeth with about 150 people. Her son Couper, a seventh-grader at King Middle School, got to meet Clinton backstage because he had done a project on her last year.

“It was meeting a hero,” Couper said, holding his final project with a handwritten note from Clinton: “This is very good work. Thanks! A+”

Clinton said she was inspired by the women in her family, saying she wanted a better world for her granddaughter.

“I’m doing it because of my granddaughter,” she said. “You should not have to be the granddaughter of a former president to achieve your hopes and dreams. Everyone should have the same chance to live up to his or her God-given potential.”

Supporter and longtime registered Democrat Ted Walsh said he was firmly in the Clinton camp.

“I think she’s the only candidate that has laid out plans for this country that are reasonable,” said Walsh, a retired marketing director for the now-defunct Brunswick Naval Air Station. “I really think she’s the best candidate and she’s had the most experience.”

“The Republican candidates, they said nothing. Hillary has been saying what she would do for months.”

There was a minor disruption at the event when a half-dozen people stood up holding “Stop KXL” signs and refused to sit down again. Clinton has not yet spelled out her position on the Keystone XL pipeline, an $8 billion project to transport oil extracted from Canada’s tar sands to pipelines linked to Gulf Coast refineries.

“You will hear from me shortly, but you are not going to hear from me today,” she told them, as they filed out of their seats to stand in the back of the room. “Don’t interfere with other people trying to participate.”

Earlier in the day, Clinton held a town hall meeting at the University of New Hampshire. After the event, she told reporters she was “appalled” that Trump declined to correct a questioner at a town hall meeting who incorrectly claimed President Obama is Muslim.

Clinton told reporters that Trump and anyone seeking the White House should “start behaving like a president, to show respect and to stand up for truth.”

She says Trump “knew or he should have known” what the man was asking was “way out of bounds” and also untrue. She says Trump should have repudiated the comments.

Before the Portland campaign event, Clinton met with donors at an undisclosed location in Cape Elizabeth. According to the event’s Facebook page, tickets were priced at $1,000 for “friends” and $2,700 for “champions,” who also could attend a reception.

The Clinton campaign’s low-profile events are in contrast to large rallies held by her Democratic rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. In July, Sanders drew more than 7,500 people to a rally at the Cross Insurance Arena.

While Sanders has improved in the polls, Clinton holds a commanding lead.

The latest national polls from the New York Times and Washington Post show Clinton with 20-point leads over Sanders, with Clinton polling in the low- to mid- 40s versus the low- to mid-20s for Sanders. Vice President Joe Biden, who has not announced whether he’s running for president, is polling at about 15 percent nationally.

Sanders is still a threat, though, and is polling ahead of Clinton in New Hampshire, the first state to hold a primary, on Feb. 9. Maine’s Democratic caucus will be held in March.

One student at King Middle School on Friday said he was leaning toward Sanders, but wanted to hear what Clinton had to say.

“I’m attracted to Bernie. He really has a revolutionary spirit,” said 16-year-old Matt Suslovic, a junior at Casco Bay High School. “I want to hear some charisma. It’s like a teacher. If they’re excited about teaching, you can tell and it makes a difference.”

Sanders, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, former senators Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and Jim Webb of Virginia, and Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig also are campaigning for the Democratic nomination.

Clinton last visited Maine in October 2014 to stump for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud. She also made stops in Maine during her 2008 presidential primary campaign.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.