State Rep. Jared Golden, D-Lewiston, riles up the crowd at the Maine Democratic Convention on Friday evening at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston. Golden is challenging U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin for the 2nd Congressional District seat. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

State Rep. Jared Golden, D-Lewiston, riles up the crowd at the Maine Democratic Convention on Friday evening at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston. Golden is challenging U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin for the 2nd Congressional District seat. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

State Rep. Jared Golden, D-Lewiston, points at supporters after his speech at the Maine Democratic convention Friday evening at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston. Golden is challenging U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin for the 2nd Congressional District seat. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

Congressional candidate Craig Olson, as seen on a large projected screen, addresses the Maine Democratic Convention in Lewiston on Friday. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

Congressional candidate Lucas St. Clair addresses the Maine Democratic Convention in Lewiston on Friday. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

LEWISTON — Jared Golden portrayed U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin as a political coward who hides in bathrooms to avoid hard questions.

Craig Olson declared that the time has come for the Republican congressman to be replaced by a Democrat before he can do more damage.

Lucas St. Clair described Poliquin as a man who lacks compassion and who is a friend only to wealthy corporations and big donors.

The three 2nd Congressional District candidates wasted no time in ripping into Poliquin’s record and character and the riled crowd of several hundred went wild as the state Democratic convention got off the ground Friday night at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.

More than a dozen speakers lashed out at Poliquin, at President Donald Trump and at the GOP in general.

“Too many politicians don’t have the backs of the people they represent,” said Golden, a Lewiston Democrat and former U.S. Marine. “In the 2nd Congressional District, Congressman Bruce Poliquin has consistently voted on the side of special interests to prop up the few at the expense of the many. He voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act without any plan to replace it.

“Then he let the wealthy, big corporations and foreign investors rewrite our tax code to pad their own pockets with permanent tax cuts, while you and I, and nearly everyone we know will be asked to pick up the tab,” Golden said.

“What’s worse is he refuses to answer questions about his votes: He ran away from seniors asking him why he didn’t support their health care? He locked the doors of his office to veterans that wanted to speak with him about food assistance. He ducks into bathrooms to hide from reporters.”

The crowd cheered Golden after almost every line he uttered.

Craig Olson of Islesboro described himself as a former dairy farmer who has suffered through hard times while raising a family, building a business and trying to make ends meet.

“Bruce Poliquin has done none of these things,” Olson said. “When things get tough, when things aren’t going right, you step up. It’s a balance we all struggle with, a balance made harder by the policies of the Republican party and those, like Mr. Poliquin, who see people as numbers — numbers on a spreadsheet to balance a budget.”

By then, the theme was well-established as one Democrat after another bemoaned the actions and the nature of the GOP.

“With Republicans in control of Congress, Social Security and Medicare are threatened,” warned St. Clair of Hampden. “Health insurance for kids is at risk. Our environment is in jeopardy.

“Bruce Poliquin voted for a massive tax giveaway to wealthy corporations and big donors,” he said. “They blew a huge hole in the budget — and now, whether they’ll admit it or not — they’re taking aim at Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to pay for it. Even though the economy is growing, working people aren’t seeing much benefit. Nothing good is happening in Congress, and that has to change.”

More than 1,300 delegates are expected to descend on Lewiston over the weekend for the convention, which is themed “Victory Starts Here.”

The Friday night gathering also included speeches from U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, U.S. Senate candidate Zak Ringelstein and the party’s seven gubernatorial contenders.

Just about all who spoke took extra care to hit the familiar buzzwords in attacking the GOP: Medicare, Social Security, climate change and minimum wage were popular themes.

The bottom line seemed to be that the country as a whole will be better off if the Democratic party prevails in the fall.

“If I don’t win this race, I will proudly support whichever candidate takes on Bruce Poliquin and work my hardest to make sure that Democrats reclaim this seat,” Olson said. “Here’s to an enormous blue wave in November.”


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