Democrats to convene in Lewiston

Posted May 20, 2010, at 3:45 p.m.

LEWISTON — More than 1,000 Democrats from throughout Maine will converge on Lewiston on Friday and Saturday to hear from the four gubernatorial hopefuls battling for the party’s nomination and to approve a new party platform.

Maine Democrats are returning to Lewiston for their state convention for the first time since 1984.

“They really wanted us to be there,” said Mary Erin Casale, executive director of the Maine Democratic Party. “They have a lot going on in the city, and they have a great Democratic base.”

The convention kicks off Friday night at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee with a ceremony featuring addresses by U.S. Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree. The four candidates hoping to win the Democratic nomination on June 8 — Steve Rowe, Rosa Scarcelli, Pat McGowan and Libby Mitchell — will then host separate “hospitality suites” in locations around the city.

The estimated 1,200 delegates and others will return Saturday morning to take care of official business, such as adopting a 2010 party platform and to hear 20-minute presentations from the four gubernatorial candidates.

Former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, will deliver the convention’s keynote address.

The Democratic convention comes two weeks after Maine Republicans created a stir by tossing out the official proposed party platform in favor of a more specific platform containing many themes espoused by members of the growing Tea Party movement.

The new GOP platform, which generated national headlines, was hailed by some Republicans as a return to the party’s conservative values and constitutional roots. But others have expressed concerns that some aspects of the platform — such as calling for eliminating the Department of Education and calling global warming a myth — could turn off more moderate voters needed to win a statewide election in Maine.

Casale said she doesn’t expect the Democrats’ debate on a party platform to generate any major surprises. Whereas she labeled the Republican platform as “radical,” Casale said the Democrats’ platform has “a positive message.”

Of course, there are items within the Democrats’ proposed platform that some people would find objectionable.

For instance, the draft platform reaffirms a woman’s right to an abortion, calls for the legalization of same-sex marriage and supports Maine’s controversial Dirigo Health program. The GOP platform takes the opposite stance on those three issues.

Maine GOP Chairman Charlie Webster said he will be watching to see whether there are any major changes to the draft platform, which he called “extreme” and out of touch with what most Mainers believe.

“I want to have a debate about which platform represents the view of most Maine people,” Webster said.

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