Republicans to gather, regroup this weekend


AUGUSTA – The presence of two top political aides from the 1980s administration of President Ronald Reagan will help set a tone for this weekend’s Republican State Convention.

But it shouldn’t be viewed as any special advantage for the candidate in the party’s three-way contest for the Republican gubernatorial nomination who is most emphatically claiming a connection to the Reagan White House years, says GOP Executive Director Julie O’Brien.

Former U.S. Rep. David Emery of St. George lost a bid for the U.S. Senate in the early 80s and went on to serve under Reagan as deputy director of the U.S. Arms and Disarmament Agency. Emery highlighted the Reagan link in early campaign advertising.

Reagan’s legacy is sure to come up frequently during the party’s gathering at the Augusta Civic Center, most probably at Friday night’s chairman’s banquet.

The banquet will feature keynote speeches from Jeffrey Lord and Frank Donatelli, who were both White House political directors for Reagan.

But a focus on Reagan need not concern Emery’s rival’s for the gubernatorial nomination, state Sens. Chandler Woodcock of Farmington and Peter Mills of Cornville, according to O’Brien.

“It’s a tribute to Reagan and that’s it,” she said Thursday. “The other campaigns don’t have a problem.”

Reagan, who died in June 2004, carried Maine both times when he won election as president.

The first time he defeated Democratic incumbent Jimmy Carter only narrowly in Maine, but four years later in the state he trounced Democrat Walter Mondale.

Perhaps the most anticipated segment of the two-day GOP gathering is the Friday afternoon series of appearances by Emery, Woodcock and Mills.

The convention awards no endorsement and the gubernatorial nomination will go to the winner of a June 13 primary election.

But in a race that has been relatively quiet, a chance to make a case before hundreds of party activists and massed media can only be valuable.

The latest campaign finance reports filed earlier this week noted that Mills and Woodcock have each received $200,000 by qualifying for public funding through the Clean Election Act. Mills had $159,720 in cash on hand, and Woodcock had $180,507 available to spend.

Emery, whose campaign is privately financed, raised a total of $96,145 through April 25. Emery’s campaign reported $3,561 in cash on hand and $29,000 in debts.

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AP-ES-05-04-06 1456EDT