Socially distanced delegates gather for the first day of the Republican National Convention on Monday in Charlotte, N.C. Six Republicans from Maine went to Charlotte for the convention.  Travis Dove/The New York Times via AP, Pool

Maine Republican leaders are confident, with their national party convention kicking off Monday, that President Trump will win the state’s 2nd Congressional District on his way to a second term.

Maine Republican Party Chair Demi Kouzounas, national committeeman Josh Tardy and 2nd District nominee Dale Crafts spoke Monday with reporters on a conference call from Charlotte to offer their full-throated support for the president. The three were among six Mainers who traveled to North Carolina for a convention that has been scaled back because of the pandemic.

“This convention is my third and it’s an honor to be here,” said Tardy, an attorney, lobbyist and former state lawmaker from Newport. “This is a very unifying time for the party.”

Delegates from each state Monday formally renominated President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, kicking off a four-day event that will feature many virtual components, not unlike the Democrats’ convention last week. After the roll call, Trump then spoke for several minutes.

“We have done more in this administration than any other president or administration in our history,” he said, rattling off a list of what he sees as his administration’s accomplishments.

His speech was unannounced and a break from tradition. Typically, the nominee speaks only on the final day of a convention.

Kouzounas characterized Trump’s remarks Monday as “uplifting.”

“He was on fire,” said Kouzounas, a dentist from Saco who has led the Maine Republican Party since January 2017.

Crafts, a state lawmaker from Lisbon and the Republican challenging Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, said this is his fourth convention as a delegate and he’s never seen such enthusiasm for a candidate.

“He one of the strongest leaders I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” Crafts said of Trump.

Trump trails Democratic candidate Joe Biden in Maine in all public polls so far, but the race is much closer in the more rural and conservative 2nd District. Since Maine splits two of its electoral college votes by district, Republicans hope Trump can, at least, win the 2nd District vote as he did four years ago.

On Tuesday, Maine lobsterman Jason Joyce of Swan’s Island will address the convention. He’s the only Mainer with a speaking slot.

Trump has recently touted his administration’s efforts to improve the lobster industry. Last Friday, his administration announced a trade deal with the European Union that eliminates all tariffs on U.S. lobster. The deal was applauded by some industry leaders, although it was Trump’s own tariffs that started the trade wars. And there are still tariffs imposed by China, the largest importer of lobsters from Maine.

Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White, a graduate of Hermon High School in Maine, also will speak at the convention Thursday in support of the president.

Maine’s longest-tenured elected Republican, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, is not participating in the convention. Her campaign said the senator has never participated in a national convention during a year in which she is on the ballot. Two other Republican senators who have not always been staunch Trump allies – Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Utah’s Mitt Romney – also skipped the event.

Collins’ absence draws attention to her refusal to say whether she supports the president or plans to vote for him. In 2016, Collins wrote a lengthy opinion piece for the Washington Post detailing the reasons she could not support Trump. Since then, she has both criticized some of his incendiary comments and supported some of his signature policy wins, including the 2017 tax cut and the confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Tardy said he’s confident that Maine voters will support both Trump and Collins.

“I think Susan Collins wants to be judged based on what she has done as a United States Senator and her overall record of public service,” he said when asked if Republicans in Maine deserve an explanation for Collins’ silence on Trump this year.

Kouzounas and Crafts agreed.

“I’m a huge Trumpster … and also a huge Susan Collins supporter,” Kouzounas said. “They are not mutually exclusive. They both have their jobs to do.”

Added Crafts: “Her word is her word. She’s out there working to get re-elected and Republicans are behind her.”


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