Dems discuss top issues, hear from candidates

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LEWISTON — Maine Democrats adopted a party platform and rallied around speeches by Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine and the four gubernatorial candidates at the state party convention in Lewiston on Saturday.

About 1,100 party faithful attended Saturday’s all-day session at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee, according to party officials.

During morning debate on the party platform, delegates rejected proposals to endorse automatic voter enrollment and to create a Maine Department of Peace, and a plank offered by gubernatorial candidate Rosa Scarcelli to reject the Republican Party platform.

Several convention-goers rose to oppose the Scarcelli amendment before the majority voted to oppose it, saying the convention was about Democratic principles, not reacting to Republican ones.

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The adopted Democratic platform highlights commitment to economic security, expanded access to health care and education, protection of a woman’s access to reproductive choice, increasing the number of terms allowed for state legislators, civil rights and environmental protection.

The platform also cited support for a more progressive tax structure.

House Majority Leader John Piotti, a major proponent of the recently enacted tax reform law that is facing a repeal vote on the June 8 ballot, touted the measure before delegates.

“This was the No. 1 priority of the House Democratic caucus,” he said. “Because it responds to the caucus’ top frustration – that our antiquated tax system is not only broken, but broken in a way that prevents us from making much-needed strides forward.”

The law, which lowers the income tax for most Mainers from 8.5 percent to 6.5 percent, was passed by the Democratic majority with one Republican vote. The reduction would be balanced by expanding the 5 percent sales tax to items not currently taxed and increasing the meals and lodging tax from 7 percent to 8.5 percent.

Piotti said the new law represents a more progressive tax system. He asked the Democrats to vote no on Question 1, which asks voters to reject the law.

Senate Majority Leader Phil Bartlett urged delegates to support the four bond questions on the June ballot. Voters will determine the fate of the bond questions that represent about $108 million in new state borrowing to pay for projects including offshore wind power development, highway and rail investments and redevelopment of the Brunswick Naval Air Base.

Gubernatorial candidate Libby Mitchell told the crowd her experience as a bipartisan deal-maker and champion of traditional Democratic issues such as health care and education would serve them best in the Blaine House.

“I know how hard it is to imagine recovery, but we need to build a new Maine,” she said. “We’re ready for our future and proud of our past. Maine is set to go out to sea once again; I want to lead our state out of the harbor.”

Pat McGowan portrayed himself as the conservation candidate, touting his role in creating the Land for Maine’s Future program.

“Like Maine Democrats Ed Muskie and George Mitchell, I helped fight to protect our environment,” McGowan said. “My plan will inspire Mainers and give them their chance to succeed. Maine will be the capital of the green economy.”

Steve Rowe, who stormed the stage with by far the largest contingent of sign-carrying supporters, emphasized his commitment to Maine’s education system for kindergartners through college graduates.

“My vision for Maine is a place where every single child enters kindergarten ready to learn,” Rowe said. “Education is the key to our economic prosperity. We all have value, we all have contributions to make and we are all responsible for ourselves, but we also have a responsibility to each other.”

Scarcelli, the Democratic newcomer, told Democrats it was time for a change in Maine politics.

“I am running for governor to give Mainers a choice between change and the status quo,” Scarcelli said. “I refuse to believe that we can’t be any better than we are today. The alarm is ringing; we can’t just hit the snooze button again, because Maine has been on the snooze button for far too long.”

Kaine, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, brought the convention to a close by listing accomplishments made by Democrats in Washington, such as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, health care and Wall Street reforms.

He also threw out some insults that were sure to get applause from the crowd of Democrats.

“(One) thing we have going for us is the other guys, here in Maine and across the country; the Republican party, they just aren’t ready for prime time,” he said, referring to the party platform adopted a few weeks ago by Maine’s Republican Party, which called for the elimination of the Department of Education and the Federal Reserve.

“We’re going to do a lot better in November than a lot of people think,” Kaine said. “It’s going to be hard, but what I know is that Democrats do hard. We’re not the over-dog party, those are the other guys. We’re the underdog party and we win because we are passionate.”

rmetzler@sunjournal.com

LEWISTON – Maine Democrats adopted a party platform, discussed upcoming primary referendum questions and rallied around a speeches by former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine and the four gubernatorial candidates during the final day of the state party convention in Lewiston on Saturday.

During debate on the party platform at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee, delegates rejected proposals to endorse automatic voter enrollment, create a Maine Department of Peace and a plank offered by Rosa Scarcelli, a gubernatorial candidate, to reject the Republican party platform.

Several convention-goers rose to oppose the Scarcelli amendment before the majority voted to oppose it, saying the convention was about Democratic principles not reacting to Republican ones.

The adopted Democratic platform highlights commitment to economic security, expanded access to health care and education, protection of a woman’s access to reproductive choice, increasing the number of terms allowed for state legislators, civil rights and environmental protection.

The platform also cited support for a more progressive tax structure.

House Majority Leader John Piotti, a major proponent of the recently enacted tax reform law that is facing a repeal vote on the June 8th ballot, touted the measure before delegates.

“This was the number one priority of the House Democratic caucus,” he said. “Because it responds to the caucus’ top frustration – that our antiquated tax system is not only broken, but broken in a way that prevents us from making much needed strides forward.”

The law, which lowers the income tax for most Mainers from 8.5 percent to 6.5 percent, was passed by the Democratic majority with just one Republican vote. The reduction is paid for by expanding the 5 percent sales tax to items not currently taxed and increasing the meals and lodging tax from 7 percent to 8.5 percent.

Piotti said the new law represents a more progressive tax system and asked the Democrats to vote no on question one, to reject the people’s veto of the law.

Senate Majority Leader Phil Bartlett urged delegates to support the four bond questions on the June ballot as well. Maine voters will determine the fate of the bond questions that represent about $108 million in new state borrowing to pay for projects ranging from off-shore wind power development, highway and rail investments and redevelopment of the Brunswick Naval Air Base.

When delegates returned from lunch and their county caucuses, the four gubernatorial candidates addressed the crowd.

Libby Mitchell told the crowd her experience as a bipartisan deal maker and champion of traditional Democratic issues such as health care and education would serve them best in the Blaine House.

“I know how hard it is to imagine recovery, but we need to build a new Maine,” she said. “We’re ready for our future and proud of our past. Maine is set to go out to sea once again; I want to lead our state out of the harbor.”

Pat McGowan portrayed himself as the conservation candidate, boasting his role in creating the Land for Maine’s Future program.

“Like Maine Democrats Ed Muskie and George Mitchell, I helped fight to protect our environment,” he said. “My plan will inspire Mainers and give them their chance to succeed. Maine will be the capital of the green economy.”

Steve Rowe, who stormed the stage with by far the largest contingent of sign-carrying supporters, emphasized his commitment to Maine’s education system from Kindergärtners through college graduates.

“My vision for Maine is a place where every single child enters kindergarten ready to learn,” he said. “Education is the key to our economic prosperity. We all have value, we all have contributions to make and we are all responsible for ourselves, but we also have a responsibility to each other.”

Scarcelli, the Democratic newcomer, told Democrats it was time for a change in Maine politics.

“I am running for governor to give Mainers a choice between change and the status quo; I refuse to believe that we can’t be any better than we are today,” she said. “The alarm is ringing we can’t just hit the snooze button again, because Maine has been on the snooze button for far too long.”

Kaine, who serves as the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, brought the convention to a close by listing off accomplishments made by Democrats in Washington, such as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and health care and wall street reforms.

He also threw out some insults that were sure to get applause from the crowd of Democrats.

“(One) thing we have going for us is the other guys, here in Maine and across the country; the Republican party, they just aren’t ready for prime time,” he said, referring to the party platform adopted a few weeks ago by Maine’s Republican Party that called for the elimination of the Department of Education and the Federal Reserve.

“We’re going to do a lot better in November than a lot of people think,” he said. “It’s going to be hard, but what I know is that Democrats do hard. We’re not the over-dog party, those are the other guys. We’re the underdog party and we win because we are passionate.”

rmetzler@sunjournal.com

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