AUGUSTA (AP) -Republican Party regulars fended off platform challenges partially fueled by a libertarian bloc led by Ron Paul supporters at the GOP state convention Saturday and elected a full 12-member slate of at-large delegates endorsed by John McCain’s campaign to the September national convention.

State Republican Party Executive Director Julie O’Brien said it appeared that one of 18 elected national delegates – three were chosen from each of the state’s two congressional districts – would be a Paul supporter.

The at-large slate was led by luminaries of the Republican establishment including Sen. Olympia Snowe and her husband, former Gov. John McKernan, as well as the two highest ranking Republican legislators – Senate Minority Leader Carol Weston of Montville and House Minority Leader Josh Tardy of Newport.

Also winning election as a national delegate was one of the two candidates seeking the Republican nomination for Maine’s open 1st Congressional District seat, former regional Small Business Administration chief Charles Summers.

Summers, a former legislator and congressional candidate who has been on active duty in Iraq as a Navy reservist, is contesting southern Maine businessman Dean Scontras, a political newcomer.

Snowe led the convention in looking ahead, promising that “this is going to be a fantastic year for Republicans.”

But in some ways, maneuvering and voting Saturday resounded with echoes of the recent past.

McCain and Paul finished well behind Mitt Romney, who spoke at the Augusta convention Saturday night, in Maine’s Republican caucuses in February.

And while most traditional party activists have rallied around McCain since then, dozens of Paul supporters sought to demonstrate their continuing backing for Paul over the weekend, holding his campaign signs aloft, chanting his name and winning time during a convention recess for a video presentation touting their favorite.

A McCain campaign contingent was at the ready to counter the insurgents’ efforts, making sure signs for the Arizona senator were widely distributed and displayed and organizing a signal corps encouraging delegates on the convention floor to vote yes or no on various matters.

Skirmishing on the platform was occasionally spirited although, citing time constraints, presiding officials tightly limited and eventually closed off debate.

One proposed amendment that was only narrowly defeated would have declared the U.S. Constitution, in language used commonly by Paul partisans, to be the supreme law of the land and asserted opposition to undermining it “by giving illegal authority to unelected world bodies.”

The failed amendment also expressed opposition to a central bank, “as there is no constitutional authority for the federal government to create one.”

The listing of party principles put before delegates includes expressions of support for American troops, free enterprise and individual initiative, the right to bear arms and market solutions to make health care affordable.

Among the other planks in the draft platform are those supporting “responsible pro-business laws” that encourage investment, expressing belief “in the sanctity of life” without mentioning abortion, and defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

From the floor on Saturday, two proposals to revise the marriage definition failed.

One would have deleted the provision. The other, which drew a mere handful of supporters, would have replaced it with language reading: “We define marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman till death shall separate them.”

Also falling short of approval was an amendment calling for, in part, “the return to sound money and gold and silver as legal tender,” an audit of all U.S. gold, including specifically at Fort Knox, and the abolition of the IRS, Department of Education, Department of Homeland Security, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Federal Reserve.

Other convention voting produced a new team of national committeeman and national committeewoman.

Vying to succeed Peter Cianchette, the 2002 Republican nominee for governor who was recently confirmed for the post of U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica, former state Senate President Richard Bennett of Oxford defeated Presque Isle businessman Hayes Gahagan, another former legislator.

And a three-way race for the national committeewoman’s post, currently held by Karen Raye of Perry, was won by Jan Martens Staples, who served in the position from 1998-2004, over former state party chairwoman Kathy Watson and Linda Bean, an L.L. Bean board member and past congressional candidate who described herself as a Paul supporter.

AP-ES-05-03-08 1740EDT

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