AUGUSTA, Maine — Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Georgia Sen. Max Cleland will top the list of speakers at next weekend’s Democratic State Convention in Augusta, which is expected to draw 1,500 delegates and comes just a little more than a week before the state legislative and congressional primaries.
The convention, which runs Friday to Sunday, will also feature addresses by all four of the Democrats seeking the party nomination for Maine’s open U.S. Senate seat and by the two incumbent House candidates, Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree.
The delegates will elect the 2012-14 Democratic State Committee, adopt a state party platform and elect delegates to the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
O’Malley, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, is serving his second term as governor of Maryland and previously served as mayor of Baltimore for six years. Cleland, speaking as a surrogate for President Barack Obama, will also help set the tone for the campaign when he addresses the crowd Friday night. But the convention is about more than Obama to the Democratic activists.
“For us, the convention isn’t just focused on the presidential race. It’s on the legislative candidates and congressional races,” said party spokeswoman Lizzy Reinholt. “It’s all about all hands on deck.”
Maine is a caucus state with no presidential primaries, but the June 12 primaries are drawing interest for legislative contests and especially the four-way race to choose a nominee for the Senate seat left open by GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe’s decision not to run again.
The four Democrats in the high-profile race, former Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, state Sen. Cynthia Dill, political newcomer Ben Pollard and state Rep. Jon Hinck will get their first major exposure before party activists.
The Democrats’ gathering comes nearly after a month after a wild Republican State Convention, also in Augusta, in which the party’s machinery was taken over by Ron Paul supporters who elected a heavy slate of delegates to that party’s national convention in Tampa, Fla. Due to delays and changes in the state convention agenda, the party’s six U.S. Senate candidates were denied an important opportunity to showcase their campaigns.
Democrats are also focused sharply on legislative races, in which they hope to win back House and Senate majorities that together came under Republican control for the first time in decades in the 2010 elections. In the two years since, “it’s been a completely anti-worker, anti-middle class agenda” in the State House, said Reinholt.
The party’s proposed platform, which is to be debated and voted on Saturday, illustrates the wide difference between Democratic and Republican goals and principles in this election year. The tea party-inspired GOP statement is strong on fiscal restraint and calls health care a service, not a right. It has a “sanctity of life” provision and supports man-woman marriage.
The proposed Democratic platform supports a state and national universal, single-payer health care system, a minimum wage that provides a “living wage,” opposes privatization of state jobs, supports gay rights including civil marriage, women’s reproductive rights and a strong Social Security system, among other things.