AUGUSTA — Most of Maine’s Republican gubernatorial candidates are tepid to cool on a party platform pushed through by tea party sympathizers, but none responding to Associated Press queries rejected the statement of party principles outright.
The platform adopted at last weekend’s Maine Republican Convention showcased the influence of conservatives and tea party activists within the party. Among other things, it stresses a need for state sovereignty, 12-year congressional term limits, limiting marriage to one man and one woman and the sanctity of life, including the unborn.
It seeks the elimination of the Department of Education and the Federal Reserve and refers to global warming as a “myth.” It also calls for spending cuts and a balanced budget, freezing stimulus funds, and says that that health care “is not a right. It is a service.”
GOP candidates, who were asked whether they support the platform, generally chose to point to their own priorities instead. None accepted a challenge by state Democratic 2010 campaign chair Arden Manning to reject the document.
“I support the spirit behind the new platform, though the letter of the document does leave room for improvement,” Bill Beardsley wrote in an e-mail. While he said it “appropriately venerates the constitutions of both Maine and the United States,” Beardsley added that it “expresses the electorate’s increasing frustration with the rapidly growing government footprint in our lives.”
Bruce Poliquin says he agrees with some parts of the platform, but finds others “unnecessarily divisive.”
“As Republicans, we should articulate our core values in a way that attracts all those who share them,” Poliquin wrote. But he said several additions to the platform “fall short of that goal.”
Peter Mills said the platform reflects the public’s anger over about public debt and the lack of accountability for tax-supported services.
“I doubt that there is anyone in the Legislature who has trumpeted those same concerns more than I have,” said Mills, a state senator. He said the platform fails to stick to the issues that concern most mainstream voters, and includes things Republicans don’t support.
Les Otten said he left the convention before the changes were added to the platform.
“I haven’t studied the changes,” Otten said in a phone interview, adding that he doesn’t know where it may tie into his campaign theme of jobs, no new taxes, health care costs and welfare reform.
Matt Jacobson’s campaign manager, Bill Becker, responded to the AP with an e-mail that made no direct reference to the platform. It said in Jacobson’s message “is about bringing people together to create a strong Maine economy. He is campaigning on his own experience and message.”
Neither Paul LePage, whose campaign has made a presence at tea party events around Maine, nor Steve Abbott responded to e-mail and phone queries.
Outside Maine, the tea party movement has had an influence on major political races.
In Florida, Gov. Charlie Crist quit the GOP so he can run for the Senate as an independent after polls showed him trailing tea party-friendly Marco Rubio in the race for the Republican nomination. In Kentucky the tea party is a driving force behind the Senate candidacy of Rand Paul, the son of libertarian presidential candidate Ron Paul. In Utah tea party activists toppled three-term Republican Sen. Robert F. Bennett.
Four Democrats are seeking their party’s nomination for Maine governor in the June 8 primary.