BANGOR, Maine — They tried to play nice, but it was pretty clear at Saturday’s Penobscot County supercaucus that the Republican candidates vying for U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe’s senate seat are not happy with her actions in Washington.
Snowe, a three-term senator and former eight-term U.S. House member, was the first to speak at the political gathering of Republicans from 25 municipalities. They came together at Husson University to elect delegates to the state convention in May and participate in a presidential preference straw poll.
“Regardless of who the nominee is, come 2013 we will have a Republican back in the White House,” Snowe said to get the troops rallied. She added later that, “We must pull out all the stops to ensure President Barack Obama is a one-term president.”
During Obama’s State of the Union address on Jan. 24, he mentioned reforming the executive branch of government, Snowe said, adding that when she heard him say that, she immediately had her own remedy.
“I thought to myself, ‘That can be arranged — let’s start at the top,’” the 33-year veteran lawmaker told fellow Maine Republicans.
Snowe, who has never lost an election, went on to say that Congress needs to pass a balanced budget, reduce the deficit and fix or repeal the health care law, which she dubbed “Obamacare.”
Her opponents spoke next. Republican candidate Scott D’Amboise of Lisbon Falls said Snowe is not fiscally conservative enough, and a representative for Andrew Ian Dodge of Harpswell said that when Snowe voted to pass the health care law, she clearly supported it.
“Our party needs to return to its conservative roots,” D’Amboise said.
D’Amboise, who lost a Maine congressional election in 2006 and who is a tea party-backed conservative, also questioned how Snowe has voted on major issues.
“I challenge the senator to defend her votes on the stimulus package, food safety and NDAA,” D’Amboise said, referring to the National Defense Authorization Act.
NDAA, the candidate explained, allows the military to go into homes without a warrant.
“They can hold you indefinitely right here on American soil,” D’Amboise said, drawing upset applause from the crowd. “That is wrong.”
State Republican Party rules require that each town hold a caucus to elect delegates to the state convention early each election year. Feb. 11 is this year’s deadline, which also is the date the town-by-town presidential poll results will be announced.
Nearly half of the state’s cities and towns held caucuses on Saturday and Republicans from 16 Piscataquis County towns are scheduled to meet Sunday in Dover-Foxcroft.
After Snowe and her opponents, other state Republican candidates also got an opportunity to address the gathering. Senate President Kevin Raye, R-Perry, who is challenging Democrat Mike Michaud for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District seat, spoke about what he has learned in the 10 years since he last tried to unseat Michaud.
Representatives for the four Republican candidates who hope to face President Barack Obama in the fall — Texas Rep. Ron Paul, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Sen. Rick Santorum — also took to the podium.
Former New Hampshire Gov. John H. Sununu addressed the caucus on behalf of Romney.
“I am absolutely convinced that the best candidate to beat Barack Obama is Mitt Romney,” he said just before the caucus began. “When he was governor of Massachusetts, he cut spending, and he cut taxes.”
A Republican change is needed, Sununu said, because, “People are hurting.”