The crowd applauds during the Maine Democratic Party’s convention at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor on Saturday as an attendee holds a sign criticizing former President Donald Trump for appointing the conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices responsible for overturning Roe v. Wade. Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

BANGOR — Energized by this week’s felony convictions of former President Donald Trump, Democratic leaders told a crowd of about 1,100 people at the state convention at the Cross Insurance Center on Saturday that the stakes of this fall’s election are high and the choice before voters is clear.

Speakers ranging from Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, who appeared in her personal capacity on behalf of the Biden campaign, to Gov. Janet Mills and the state’s constitutional officers framed the upcoming election as a choice between a compassionate, capable incumbent who respects the rule of law and individual rights and a self-interested former president looking to exact revenge on his political rivals.

Mills said the choice between the two candidates is clear.

“One of those people is a convicted felon,” Mills, a former prosecutor, said to the crowd’s delight. “God bless the jury system. I believe in it.”

The convention – the theme for which was “Leading Maine Forward” – came only days after Trump, who is the presumptive Republican nominee in 2024, was convicted of 34 felonies relating to hush money payments to a porn star leading up to the 2016 election.

The Maine Republican Party held its own convention in late April; it was heavily attended by Trump supporters, and candidates frequently referred to their support of the former president.


While that convention came before Wednesday’s verdict, Republicans at the state and federal level have only reaffirmed their support for Trump.

Haaland told attendees at the Democratic convention that the future of reproductive freedom across the country is at stake this fall and urged Democrats to give Trump all of the credit he seeks for overturning Roe v. Wade. The U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2022 ruling has led to a raft of abortion restrictions and bans in Republican-controlled states.

Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, left, greets U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “If Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans return to the White House, they have pledged to take a wrecking ball to women’s health, to economic justice, to racial justice and to all of the progress we have made,” Haaland said. Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

“We can’t afford to let them bring their radical abortion bans nationwide or prevent women from getting a full spectrum of reproductive health care they need,” she said. “If Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans return to the White House, they have pledged to take a wrecking ball to women’s health, to economic justice, to racial justice and to all of the progress we have made.”

Much of Saturday morning passed without any direct references to Trump or the verdict. That changed when Secretary of State Shenna Bellows took the stage to a standing ovation.

Bellows referenced “a decision” required by Maine law over the winter that attracted much media attention, referring to her controversial decision to exclude Trump from the ballot, only to have it overturned by the nation’s top court’s ruling on a similar case.

Bellows, who continues to be targeted by Maine Republicans, also called for Democrats to show courage amid the increase in violent political rhetoric on the far right, saying “courage is 12 ordinary Americans,” referring to the jury that convicted Trump this week.


Both comments drew standing ovations.

“Make no mistake, there is a small and incredibly vocal minority that is leveraging violence and attacks on the rule of law for political gain,” said Bellows, who along with her staff and family faced a slew of threats after her ruling that Trump was ineligible for the state ballot because of his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. “Courage is knowing the risks and doing the right thing anyway.”

Several speakers addressed concerns over Biden’s age, saying it comes with experience and knowledge. They said his steady stewardship during the pandemic and the economic recovery, as well as passing significant legislation investing in infrastructure and clean energy, shows that the 81-year-old can still get the job done.

They also compared Biden’s empathy against what they said was Trump’s disregard for the American people.

Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows addresses the crowd Saturday. Bellows continues to be targeted by Maine Republicans over her controversial move to bar former President Donald Trump from Maine’s primary ballot, a decision that was effectively overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, said she saw Biden’s compassion firsthand when he visited Lewiston after the mass shooting that killed 18 people and wounded 13.

“He was meeting with people who were heartbroken, and he did it in a way that only he can,” Pingree said, noting that Biden met one-on-one with families for hours. “The genuine affection he has for every other fellow human being – I witnessed that. He’s president like no other in that way, and it’s a huge contrast to the opposite candidate we are facing.”


Saturday morning was spent highlighting Democrats’ state legislative victories over the past two years and approving a platform.

Democrats, who control both chambers of the Legislature and the Blaine House, touted their legislative accomplishments, including expanding abortion access, protecting providers of legal abortion and gender-affirming care, enacting paid family and medical leave, and passing gun safety legislation, including a 72-hour waiting period for firearm purchases.

But Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, said he’s “haunted” by what Democrats didn’t do with their trifecta, including passing tribal sovereignty, closing the pay gap for state workers, and doing more to help unions and veterans.

“The only way to build a better tomorrow is if we’re honest about the challenges and realities that are facing us today. We are fueled by solidarity by that vision of a future that we have felt passion for, to not only win majorities in November and beyond, but to actually do something with them when you get them,” Jackson said.

Gov. Janet Mills described the choice facing voters this fall as simple: “One of those people is a convicted felon.” Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

Democrats adopted a platform that reaffirms support for reproductive rights, social justice, civil rights, clean energy, affordable health care and safeguarding democracy. It also expresses support of tribal sovereignty and prison reform, among other things.

At their convention in April, Republicans reaffirmed their opposition to abortion and gender-affirming care and focused on parental rights in their child’s education.


Rep. Dan Sayre, D-Kennebunk, chairman of the platform committee, said the party’s vision statement of values represents “words to win by and goals to govern by.”

“This platform makes clear the choice facing voters in November,” Sayre said. “The cult of personality or the rule of law. The politics of exclusion, division and grievance, or the commitment to do the hard work of shaping the rules we live by so that we can each pursue happiness in our own way and provide support for those who struggle.

“It is no exaggeration to say that the choice before us is between the rule of a reckless strongman or the sovereignty of an empowered people.”

Day One of the convention was interrupted by pro-Palestinian protesters, with dozens of activists and delegates protesting Rep. Jared Golden, D-2nd District, and the Biden administration’s support for Israel’s military campaign in Gaza.

In a news release, the group, which included Jewish Voice for Peace, Health Care Workers for Palestine and Maine Students for Palestine, called Golden – who did not attend the convention because he was out of state for a family event but delivered remarks via a recorded video – as “one of the staunchest backers in Congress of Israel’s brutal military campaign in Gaza, which according to the UN has killed 35,000 people in eight months, two-thirds of whom are women and children.”

A spokesperson for the Maine Democratic Party said “the right to peaceful protest and free speech are a core part of democracy.” Some of the demonstrators were asked to leave.

“Congressman Golden has consistently made clear his position that the return of all prisoners, including the eight Americans Hamas still holds captive, must precede any cease-fire,” Golden spokesperson Mario Moretto said Saturday.

Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story