PORTLAND, Maine — Speaking at the seventh annual Portland Dyke March on Friday, Dale McCormick steered clear of the controversy that led to her resignation as executive director of the Maine State Housing Authority.
In her address, McCormick voiced support for President Barack Obama’s track record on gay rights and praised the change she has seen since her first campaign for Maine state senator in 1990, when she was elected as Maine’s first openly gay state legislator.
“Today we have a president who dismantled “don’t ask, don’t tell,” McCormick said to loud applause from the crowd. “If you’d told me 30 years ago that we would have a president who would come out in favor of us marrying our partners, I would have said you were crazy.”
McCormick urged the crowd to vote for Obama in November and to reach out to friends and neighbors in favor of gay marriage in Maine.
Sarah Holmes, an organizer of the march, said the organizing committee chose McCormick as a speaker because of her many years of commitment to gay rights in Maine, calling the former state senator a “hero” in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community of Maine.
“I’ve always admired her greatly and we wanted to honor her for everything she’s done,” Holmes said.
McCormick “reluctantly” resigned from her post as executive director of the Maine State Housing Authority on March 20 after what she described at the time as a yearlong “systematic attack” led in large part by Republican State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin. McCormick, a longtime Democratic leader who was appointed to the MaineHousing post by fellow Democrat and then-Gov. John Baldacci in 2005, had more than two years left on her term when she left the agency.
Poliquin, buoyed by four new appointees to the MaineHousing board by Republican Gov. Paul LePage, has a seat on the authority board by virtue of his treasurer position. The former GOP gubernatorial and U.S. Senate hopeful sharply criticized McCormick’s management, saying the agency under her watch overspent on historic renovations and energy efficiency when it should have focused on keeping costs of low-income housing projects down.
However, the Legislature’s watchdog agency in late May announced that its study of MaineHousing expenditures over a five-year period found ” no indications of fraud” and Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability head Beth Ashcroft said at the time her investigators “judged substantially all of the $4.3 million sampled by us to be generally consistent with Maine Housing’s mission and primary activities.”
While new MaineHousing board chairman and hotel developer Peter Anastos denied he and Poliquin headed a “witch hunt” to remove McCormick, her supporters hailed the report as vindication.
McCormick herself, however, has been largely quiet since her March departure from the agency.
Held in Portland’s Monument Square, The Dyke March drew more than 100 participants to kick off Southern Maine Pride Weekend. Events on Saturday will include a parade from Monument Square to Deering Oaks Park, where there will be vendors and musical, dance and comic performances.
Holmes, who has been organizing the Portland Dyke March since its inception in 2005, described the name of the event as an act of “reclaiming” negative language and turning it into an affirmation of the lesbian community.
“It’s political, it’s about being visible and part of a community when it’s used in a positive and empowering way,” she said.
BDN writer Seth Koenig contributed to this report.