PORTLAND, Maine — The political red meat was bleeding through the walls at a Portland hotel Monday night, as the president’s eldest son boosted for the Maine Republican Party.
“The economy right now is so good,” Donald Trump Jr. could be heard telling the crowd of party faithful who’d paid $100 and more per plate to attend the private fundraiser.
Muffled applause punctuated the talk of Democrats’ “oppressive taxation” and the need to “get out” the vote that was audible from the hallway outside the closed event.
State Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn — whose longshot challenge to independent U.S. Sen. Angus King was the event’s headline cause — said he was “very excited” to welcome a member of the Trump family to Maine.
He was joined in doing so by congressional candidate Mark Holbrook, outgoing Gov. Paul LePage and other party leaders — although not Rep. Bruce Poliquin or GOP gubernatorial nominee Shawn Moody.
A representative for Poliquin, who’s defending his seat in the 2nd District against Assistant Maine House Majority Leader Jared Golden and two independents, and Moody said both had previously scheduled events.
Holbrook is taking on Democratic incumbent Chellie Pingree and independent Martin Grohman in Maine’s left-leaning 1st District.
But for the Republican voters present at the Holiday Inn By The Bay Monday, the event seemed to do the trick.
“He was super inspirational,” said Dylan Mitchell, an 18-year-old, first-time voter who’d driven down from Belfast to hear Trump Jr. talk.
A state GOP spokeswoman said she could not say how many tickets had been sold for the event, which ranged in price from $100 for general admission all the way up to $2,500 for a private reception with Trump Jr. A spokesman for the president’s son said before the event that his schedule was too tight to accommodate an interview.
People walked out of the event carrying Brakey stickers, along with Trump 2020 signs with the slogan “Keep America Great!” But in an interview, the Republican Senate candidate put some distance between himself and President Trump trade policy.
“I don’t think tariffs are a good thing,” Brakey said. “I would push for real free trade as a senator. A trade deal should be two pages: ‘You don’t put tariffs on us; We don’t put tariffs on you.’”
On the whole, Brakey seemed pleased for the high-profile support in his race against a popular incumbent who used to be governor. Democrat Zak Ringelstein, a former public school teacher and entrepreneur, is also in the U.S. Senate race against King.
During the fundraiser, three people stood outside the hotel with signs decrying Trump and Brakey — a fact the candidate noted with amusement.
“We’ve got protesters now,” he said. “We made it.”
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