National Republican Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie was in Maine on Friday to open the group’s state campaign office and touch base with Maine congressional candidates.

This marks the first time the party’s national organization has opened a stand-alone office in this state, said Graham Shafer, NRC’s regional political director. Normally, it works through the state party office.

Gillespie said GOP activists are hoping to register 8,000 additional Republicans in the state, which would put their numbers closer to the Democrats, but still about 13,000 behind the other party. Unenrolled voters in Maine were running more than 60,000 ahead of the Democrats, as of 2002.

Gillespie met earlier in the day with 2nd Congressional District Republican candidate Brian Hamel to review campaign strategy. Gillespie said the GOP is confident it can win the congressional seat as well as carry the district in the presidential race.

EX-Mainer spokesman for hot movie

Chris Lehane, a former Mainer and spokesman for Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign, is documentary filmmaker Michael Moore’s new media strategist.

Moore’s latest movie, “Fahrenheit 9/11,” made its national screen debut Friday, including opening at three independent theaters in Maine.

The movie is highly critical of President Bush and his foreign policies. Moore reportedly planned distribution of the movie to coincide with this year’s presidential election in an effort to keep Bush from serving a second term. So, it’s not surprising Moore would pick a Democratic campaign operative to coordinate media coverage of the movie’s release.

Lehane said Friday through his sister, Erin Lehane, spokeswoman for the 2003 pro-casino campaign in Maine, that the movie should have a powerful effect on Mainers.

“At its soul, Fahrenheit 9/11′ is about the young men and women from the Lewistons, Watervilles and Jay, Maines of America whose boots are on the ground in Iraq and who have been put in an impossible situation,” he said. “The movie, on these soldiers’ behalf, asks the questions many Americans want answered: Why are they there?’ How did they get there?’ And for what reasons are they there?'”

Rep. Craven ready for house party

Rep. Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston, is one of roughly 70 Mainers scheduled to host so-called house parties on Sunday for Democratic Congressman Mike Michaud. The goal of the collective effort is to raise money for his re-election campaign.

Craven said she hopes to take in $1,000 while raising voter awareness of the first-term candidate.

Michaud, a Democrat from Medway, beat Republican Kevin Raye 52 percent to 48 percent in 2002.

About 55 similar parties are planned throughout the 2nd Congressional District, said Michaud spokeswoman Monica Castellanos. Originally, 75 supporters expressed interest in opening their homes for the event, but many have since doubled up with neighbors, she said.

Craven has invited about 100 people and has already received $125 in donations, some from invitees who said they won’t be able to make it.

Finger food and desserts are planned, she said, along with non-alcoholic drinks (and maybe a little wine.)

She hopes Michaud will drop in during the 5-7 p.m. event. If not, she will put him on speaker phone, she said.

Castellanos said Michaud has $415,000 cash on hand, with no debt from his 2002 campaign.

“Fund raising is going extremely well,” she said.

Tax-cut wars

The National Republican Congressional Committee fired another shot at Michaud this week, panning his vote on the federal budget.

Michaud “voted to raise taxes and increase federal spending. This at a time when our rebounding economy and stellar jobs number have proven that tax cuts work!” the written press release said.

Castellanos said the statement is “misleading” and “irresponsible.”She said Michaud voted against continuing to give tax cuts to people who make $1 million a year or more.”

By contrast, the bill Michaud supported would have reduced billions of dollars of the federal deficit, she said.

– By Staff Writer Christopher Williams

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