Donald Trump Jr., a reliable and outspoken cheerleader for his father’s presidency, visited Portland on Monday evening to help raise money for the Maine Republican Party and its candidates.

The event, held at the Holiday Inn by the Bay, featured a private reception from 5-6 p.m. for donors who contributed $1,500 or more, followed by a general reception from 6-7 p.m. with tickets starting at $100. About two dozen people attended the first event, and an estimated 150-200 were at the second.

Both gatherings were closed to the media and Trump Jr. was not made available for interviews.

In addition to the president’s oldest son, featured guests included Gov. Paul LePage, who is wrapping up his second term; state Sen. Eric Brakey, who is challenging U.S. Sen. Angus King; and Mark Holbrook, who is running against 1st District U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree.

Eric Brakey, who is challenging Sen. Angus King, speaks before the Donald Trump Jr. fundraising event Monday in Portland.

Maine Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason and House Minority Leader Kenneth Fredette, both of whom ran unsuccessfully in the Republican primary for governor, also were featured. Not in attendance were U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin and Shawn Moody, the Republican nominee for governor.

Several attendees who entered the event wore the trademark red “Make America Great Again” hats, while others wore shirts with President Trump’s name and face. Two older women wore green jackets with the words “I really don’t care do you” on the back – a reference to a similar jacket that first lady Melania Trump was seen wearing months ago.

Brakey, one of the few guests who was willing to speak with reporters, said he was excited to hear from Trump Jr.

Mark and Maureen Valentine of Portland protest Monday outside the Holiday Inn by the Bay, where Donald Trump Jr. was raising money for the Maine Republican Party and state Sen. Eric Brakey.

“I think that we’re all excited to welcome him here. We believe President Trump is doing a very good job as our president and there is a lot of popularity for him here in the state of Maine,” he said.

Trump Jr., 40, heads his father’s eponymous New York-based real estate company. He frequently appears on television and in social media to tout his father’s achievements – often matching his caustic rhetoric. Recently, he has been outspoken about the allegations against his father’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, whose nomination is on hold pending an FBI investigation. In an interview last week, Trump Jr. was asked about the allegations against Kavanaugh and he shared fears about the #MeToo movement.

“I’ve got boys and I’ve got girls and when I see what’s going on now, it’s scary for all things,” Trump told DailyMailTV.

Asked whether he feared more for his daughters or sons, he said: “Right now, I’d say my sons.”

Trump Jr. has three boys, ranging in age from 5 to 9. His two daughters are 4 and 11.

Trump Jr. is arguably the biggest name to visit Maine so far in the 2018 election season. He previously visited the state in October 2016, speaking to supporters at Howell’s Indoor Shooting Range and Gun Shop in Gray not long before the election.

Historically, the party in power, in this case Republicans, loses seats in midterm elections, and Democrats are expected to pick up several seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and possibly some in the Senate as well.

Both Brakey and Holbrook are considered long shots to defeat the incumbents they are challenging.

In the Senate race, King has a fundraising advantage of more than 10-to-1.

“Midterm elections are all about turnout,” Brakey said. “But this isn’t about Republican vs. Democrat. This is about Maine people versus Washington, D.C.”

One woman who attended pledged her support for Brakey and all Republicans. Catherine Farrell said she registered as a Democrat when she was 18 and voted for Democrats for years. She’s now a grandmother and doesn’t like where that party has shifted.

“What I hear from Democrats is anti-everything,” Farrell said.

Three protesters stood near the entrance to the fundraiser Monday evening. One sign read “Lock him up,” and had a picture of Trump Jr. behind bars, a reclamation of the common refrain at Trump rallies of “Lock her up,” anytime Hillary Clinton’s name is mentioned.

In addition to regularly acting as a surrogate for his father, Trump Jr. has been in the news as part of the special counsel investigation by Robert Mueller over a meeting in June 2016 at Trump Tower with an attorney connected to the Kremlin. Mueller has been investigating for almost a year and a half possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow as part of a larger investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. He also is looking into possible obstruction of justice by the president and his associates.

The meeting was reportedly for the Trump campaign to get “dirt” on the Democratic nominee, Clinton, which if true would be a violation of federal law. Trump Jr. has denied telling his father about the meeting and the president has said his son did nothing wrong by attending such a meeting.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: PPHEricRussell

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