Maine GOP platform nearly overshadows candidates

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PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A group of Knox County conservatives succeeded Saturday in tossing the state Republican Party’s proposed platform and adopting an entirely new one, an event that threatened to overshadow the seven gubernatorial candidates seeking to make an impression at the state GOP convention.

The new platform reaffirms a pledge to the U.S. Constitution and the Maine Constitution — not any specific political party — and addresses criticism that the old one was too general, said Steve Dyer of Rockland.

It was created by 12 Republican activists from Knox County. Some of them also attend tea party events and there were tea partiers on the floor of the convention who cheered their effort.

The group said it wanted to push the party back to its core values after growing frustration over health care reform, federal stimulus spending and the bank bailout, among other things.

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“We lit the fire, I believe, but the fuel was there,” said Ted Cowan, also of Rockland, who wrote much of the platform.

While the Knox County group downplayed tea party influence, the platform’s preamble acknowledged the tea party movement, describing it as “reminiscent of the principled revolt that led to the birth of the Republican Party in 1854.”

The platform debate provided some spark during the often-tedious and routine process of adopting a party platform each two years. And it became the talk of the convention on the day that the seven gubernatorial candidates had their moment at podium, seeking support before the June 8 primary.

Each of the gubernatorial candidates — Les Otten, Bruce Poliquin, Steve Abbott, Peter Mills, Matt Jacobson, Paul LePage and Bill Beardsley — entered the convention with their supporters to address the crowd. Beardsley even brought along a steel band to drum up some excitement.

About 1,800 people attended the convention at the Portland Expo, which came to an end Saturday shortly after the gubernatorial candidates spoke.

As for the platform change, GOP Chairman Charlie Webster downplayed its significance. He said there were no controversial components like abortion or gay rights that could divide the party. All of the elements were things that Republicans support, he said.

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