When Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards came to Lewiston Sunday, former Gov. Angus King was among several who spoke before Edwards.

“Well, I have bad news and good news. The bad news is four years ago I voted for George W. Bush,” said King, who ran as an independent.

“Booooooo!” yelled the audience, at which King quickly responded, “It wasn’t in Florida, OK?”

Then King continued, “The good news is: Not this year!”

He got a standing ovation.

King said he knew George Bush as a governor, and he believed what Bush said four years ago. “He said I’m a uniter not a divider.’ This country is now more divided than in any time in my lifetime,” King said. “He failed in that.”

And, King said, Bush called himself a compassionate conservative. “I haven’t seen much compassion, and all-time record deficits are sure as hell not conservative!” King yelled. He called the Bush administration “the credit card administration. They want everything but don’t want to pay for it. That’s not conservative, that’s not even Republican!”

The former governor also criticized Bush for the Iraq war, saying the reasons for invading “turned out to be wrong.” The war in Iraq “has nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism. Nothing, nil, nothing,” said King. The only connection the war has with terrorism is that it’s grown terrorism, he said.

Being resolute and decisive can be good, he added, “but you have to be right.”

King was unlike the other speakers who warmed up the crowd before Edwards spoke: They were all Democrats.

They included state Rep. Lillian O’Brien and state Sen. Peggy Rotundo, both Democrats from Lewiston; 1st District U.S. Rep. Tom Allen; Gov. John Baldacci and 2nd District U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, who introduced Edwards. Identifying with Lewiston’s mill roots, Michaud thanked the audience for sending a mill worker to Congress. Now it’s time to send the son of a mill worker to be part of a new administration, Michaud said.

Cianchette defends Bush record

In response to the Kerry campaign returning to Maine, Bush-Cheney Maine Chairman Peter Cianchette said Sunday that the Kerry-Edwards ticket’s “negative” campaigning doesn’t change the fact that Bush’s policies “are working for Maine.”

Thanks to Bush’s tax cuts, Maine’s unemployment rate is 4.5 percent, below the national average, he said. The rate is down from 5.1 percent a year ago. Some 3,500 new jobs were created in August, including 500 jobs in construction and 500 jobs in manufacturing, Cianchette said. And Maine has 7,900 more payroll jobs than a year ago, he said.

“Maine voters want a president who is decisive and resolute, not a politician whose views have become tangled to the point of incomprehension from constantly shifting with the political winds,” Cianchette said.

Lively crowd, lively tunes

Before anyone was allowed into the Lewiston Armory Sunday to hear John Edwards, long lines of people waited. They passed the time with chants and songs, “God Bless America,” “America the Beautiful” and “We Shall Overcome.” Across the street, Bush-Cheney supporters showed up. The two sides traded campaign talk. Meanwhile, a man on a bicycle rode back and forth between the two groups with a tall sign that showed a marijuana plant.

By the time the doors opened after 3:30, there were two long lines of people outside. Initially 2,300 people were allowed in, leaving 500 locked out. “We tried to get sound outside. When that failed, we negotiated with the Secret Service,” said campaign spokesman Jesse Derris. Within 20 minutes, the Secret Service allowed several hundred more in, which was everyone still outdoors at that point, Derris said.

The campaign, and the candidate, were happy to see a good turnout. “I knew the trip would be worth it,” Edwards said.

Hamel to raise money, talk jobs

Commerce Secretary Don Evans is scheduled to be the guest of honor at a fund-raiser for 2nd Congressional District Republican candidate Brian Hamel in Boston.

Evans and Hamel are expected to join a round-table discussion hosted in part by Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

“I’m gratified that national leaders, such as Secretary Evans, as well as leaders of Maine’s neighboring states, such as Gov. Romney, are lending their support to my campaign,” said Hamel. “This is yet another example that I have a winning message of creating jobs and that I am a true contender to be the next congressman from Maine.”

Hamel launched his bid for a seat in Congress in March, taking leave from his position as president and CEO of the Loring Development Authority in Limestone.

Also today, Hamel is slated to discuss his eight-point “Job Pledge” to the people of Maine at a round-table discussion hosted by the National Federation of Independent Business at Husson College in Bangor at a morning forum.

“The 2nd District of Maine is in a jobs crisis,” Hamel said in a written release. “In Congress, I intend to do for the entire district what I did for Loring Air Force Base after its close in 1994, and that is devise a winning plan, pull together the people to put the plan into action and ultimately create jobs for the people of Maine.”

– By Bonnie Washuk and Christopher Williams

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