Despite tension on full display between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders supporters at the Democratic National Convention, Emily Cain, the Democratic candidate for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, said Tuesday that she was “honored” to have supporters of both on her campaign staff and that she didn’t see those differences affecting her party nationally or her own race.

Cain last week criticized her opponent, incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, for refusing to comment on the presidential race and his party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump. On Tuesday, a day after the Democratic convention began, Cain’s campaign initially declined to comment on the convention tension but later released a statement and the candidate said in a phone interview that, while she is not attending the gathering in Philadelphia, “what I watched last night on television was people expressing their priorities and ultimately coming together to try and pull in the right direction.

“I think it’s great that so many people have been speaking out on all sides, and I’m not concerned about (tension at the convention) from a go-forward perspective,” she said.

The Democratic National Convention opened Monday night in Philadelphia, just a few days after several thousand emails were leaked showing top party officials favoring Clinton over Sanders during the nomination process. Thousands of “Bernie or Bust” protesters gathered Monday outside the convention hall and at Philadelphia’s City Hall, and they continued inside the convention hall, where comedian Sarah Silverman rebuked Sanders supporters for “being ridiculous” after interrupting her opening remarks. Meanwhile, several delegates supporting Sanders on Monday took campaign signs that read “Love trumps hate” and modified them to instead read “Love + Bernie trumps DNC” or “Love Bernie or trump wins.”

Experts have said the presidential race undoubtedly will affect down-ballot races such as the congressional contest between Poliquin and Cain, and Democrats nationally have targeted Maine’s 2nd District seat as one that they conceivably could take back from Republicans in an attempt to win back the House majority. A Portland Press Herald/ Maine Sunday Telegram poll last month found the race to be virtually tied.

Presidential races tend to boost voter turnout, especially among Democrats, and Cain and others interviewed Tuesday said they don’t see this year as an exception, despite a rocky start toward unity during the party’s national convention.


“We obviously have strong activists both for Bernie and for Hillary,” said Phil Bartlett, chairman of the Maine Democratic Party, who spoke from Philadelphia in a phone interview. “They were very excited and expressive of themselves. As the evening went on and we heard from speakers, including the first lady and Bernie Sanders himself, offering a powerful endorsement of Hillary Clinton, you really could feel the arena coming together. I thought it was a great night.”

Bartlett said he doesn’t see party unity being a problem moving forward or affecting Democratic voter turnout in November, even after the leaked party emails were released Friday.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the party’s chairwoman, resigned over the weekend and the party has appointed an interim leader and said it will be reviewing what happened.

Diane Russell, a state lawmaker from Portland and a Bernie Sanders delegate, also spoke at Monday’s convention on her efforts to reform the party’s superdelegate system and a proposal to reduce the number of superdelegates by two-thirds — something that Cain said Tuesday she would support, adding that it would make the election process “more transparent and more effective moving forward.”

Still, the leaked emails from the Democratic National Party could have a long-term effect on people’s perceptions of the party and decrease the chances they will give donations to the party, said James Melcher, a professor of political science at the University of Maine at Farmington.

More likely, though, are the chances that opposition voiced by some Bernie Sanders supporters will drive those Democratic voters to get involved in other progressive causes and races outside of the presidential race, potentially helping other candidates such as Emily Cain, Melcher said. Anecdotally, Bartlett said that’s already the case in Maine, where many Bernie Sanders supporters have gotten involved in legislative and other local races.


Cain’s campaign “is one place where people might throw their energy,” Melcher said. “They might say, ‘Boy, I really can’t work for Hillary Clinton, but Emily Cain, she’s a good progressive. That’s somebody I can get behind.'”

Cain has said previously that while she endorsed Hillary Clinton last fall, her campaign staff is made up of both Clinton and Sanders supporters and is the type of campaign that brings both together. In her Tuesday statement addressing the tension with Sanders supporters, Cain said “honest debate is healthy.”

“The DNC did the right thing by apologizing,” Cain went on in the statement, referring to the party emails controversy. She cited a bill that she sponsored as a state legislator in 2013 and worked on with Gov. Paul LePage to address government ethics.

“People have every right to feel upset when they feel that rules are being broken,” she said. “We should always demand fair play and accountability.”

On Monday, Sanders came out with a strong endorsement of Clinton — a contrast to Sen. Ted Cruz’s refusal to endorse Donald Trump when he spoke at last week’s Republican convention.

Poliquin also has refused to comment directly on Trump, his only remarks on the presidential race being an emailed statement that refers to “only one candidate” who has “been a job creator” but does not name Trump by name.


Brent Littlefield, a political consultant for Poliquin, declined to comment Tuesday on either party’s convention or the presidential race.

Like Cain, Poliquin did not attend his party’s convention last week and when given the opportunity to comment on Trump’s nomination after touring a Hartland leather tannery, said he was unconcerned about what was taking place in Cleveland, the site of the Republican convention.

Cain, meanwhile, also has been campaigning around the state and earlier this week sent out a news release announcing her plans to stop at local diners as a way to visit small towns and talk with people about what’s on their minds.

“I think the advantage (Democrats have) comes not from the political endorsements, but rather from the issues that are being discussed,” Cain said Tuesday. “Particularly when it comes to the economy, issues of fair trade, issues of support for working families, those are the issues on the minds of Mainers, on the minds of Americans, and those are the issues that will ultimately, I believe, lead to a victory for me this fall, and hopefully for Democrats other places.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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