The Political Grind

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Convention talk

Local Republicans who attended the state Republican convention in Portland last weekend used the opportunity to rally around top issues.

Tax reform and cutting government spending were by far the most discussed topics among delegates, lawmakers and candidates.

“We need a smaller more effective government. We need to make Maine a place where people can work, live and retire and my kids can, too,” said Dennis Keschl, a Belgrade Republican, running for House District 83, which consists of Belgrade, Fayette, Manchester, Mount Vernon and Vienna.

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Rep. Jarrod Crockett, R-Bethel, said tax reform was one of the main issues unifying Republicans this year, as well as controlling government spending.

“We can’t put burdens on municipalities and individuals and spare state government,” he said.

Crockett said the convention provides a much-needed opportunity for Republicans from all parts of the state to come together.

“It’s about the exchange of ideas with people from different regions, a chance to talk about what brings us together,” he said.

New job

Jesse Connolly left his position as chief of staff for House Speaker Hannah Pingree last week to start his own political consulting firm. Connolly’s last day was April 28, and his position will remain unfilled until the next legislative session begins. Pingree is termed out of the Maine House.

Connolly most recently served as the campaign manager for last fall’s “No on 1” campaign, while on leave from his position with the Speaker’s Office. The campaign lost in its effort to maintain the same-sex marriage law enacted in 2009; Mainers voted to repeal the controversial measure.

Previously, Connolly ran Gov. John Baldacci’s 2006 successful re-election campaign and led a winning referendum effort promoting gay rights in 2005.

“It was the right move at the right time,” he said. “I feel that there’s a need for continual (consulting) work year-round. I do not plan on lobbying, but I do plan on trying to build this business year-round, and I’m available for other clients.”

Connolly said he only has one client right now, a coalition group that will act independently to elect pro-gay marriage candidates during the June primary and November general election.

“It’s focused around marriage equality, but we’re also looking at larger progressive issues,” Connolly said. “We are trying to make sure that folks who voted for the bill are sent back to Augusta. That’s all done independently. We can’t coordinate with the candidates.”

EqualityMaine, EngageME and the Maine Women’s Lobby are all involved in the coalition, he said.

Connolly said he expects the National Organization for Marriage, a national group that provided most of the funding in the effort to repeal the same-sex marriage law, will be actively campaigning for Maine candidates in the fall.

“We’re trying to talk to voters out there to reinforce the notion that voting for the marriage equality measure was the right vote, and that’s one of the reasons they should get re-elected to the Legislature or, if they are new candidates, get elected to the Legislature. But we’re also fully expecting NOM to come into this race,” he said.

Connolly said his fledgling company consists of just him, and he has yet to select an official company name, though he hopes to launch a website soon.

 — Rebekah Metzler

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