AUGUSTA (AP) – This weekend’s Republican State Convention will feature opening day addresses by three candidates for the party’s gubernatorial nomination and organizers say delegate attendance is expected to be high.

Party officials said Tuesday reports from around the state suggest the Augusta Civic Center gathering could draw close to 2,000 people.

That could be the largest convention turnout since figures have been kept, officials said.

“The excitement is high, people are really looking forward to this year’s convention. I am still getting requests from towns to add delegates and alternates to their roster,” Republican State Committee Secretary Kim Pettengill said in a statement.

Friday’s schedule calls for appearances by Blaine House hopefuls David Emery of St. George, who is a former 1st District congressman, and state Sens. Peter Mills of Cornville and Chandler Woodcock of Farmington.

The convention makes no endorsement. Instead, the nomination will be awarded in primary election voting on June 13.

U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe, who is up for re-election, and Susan Collins will speak Saturday, along with state Rep. Darlene Curley of Scarborough, who is running for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 1st Congressional District, and Scott D’Amboise of Lisbon, a 2nd District candidate for the U.S. House.

Maine Republican Party Executive Director Julie O’Brien said decades of Democratic dominance on the state level make Maine ripe for change.

“The excitement surrounding this year’s election is translating into a real surge in activities around the state. We have a new Young Republicans organization that was formed last year, our College Republican chapter was recognized as the best in the nation and we have one of the largest delegations of young people attending the convention this year that I can remember,” O’Brien said in a statement.

Democrat John Baldacci is seeking a second term as governor and Democrats Tom Allen of Portland and Michael Michaud of East Millinocket hold the state’s two congressional seats and are running for new terms.

GOP campaign organizers are touting a full slate of legislative candidates.

“We have brought together a strong team of quality candidates who are ready to take on the task of leading Maine if given the chance to do so,” Assistant House Republican leader Josh Tardy of Newport said in a statement.

Democrats narrowly control the Legislature, with a 19-16 edge over Republicans in the Senate and a 74-73 edge in the House, which also has 1 Green Independent and 3 unenrolled members.

Voting on a party platform is slated for Saturday.

The Democratic State Convention is scheduled for June 2-3, also at the Augusta Civic Center.

AP-ES-05-02-06 1354EDT