LEWISTON – Democrats hammered away Friday night at the Republican Party, saying the GOP has taken a sharp turn to the right that’s out of step with Maine people.

During the opening ceremonies of the Maine Democratic Convention, elected Democrats criticized the new Republican Party platform put in place by a Knox County group with ties to the tea party movement.

House Speaker Hannah Pingree, D-North Haven, talked about the importance of recognizing global warming and its effects on fishermen and others.

“It is not, as another party might call it, a myth,” she said.

She also spoke of a need for immigration reform, “not racism,” and the need for a Department of Education, which would be eliminated under the GOP platform.

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud began his remarks with a similar theme.

“Watching the Maine Republican convention two weeks ago was like watching the movie ‘Thelma and Louise,’” he said. “The right wing hijacked the party platform and took it so far down the road they actually drove it off the cliff.”

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree said she was proud to vote for health care reform and for measures to help improve the economy. She, too, took aim at the GOP.

“It’s hard to believe the Republican Party of Maine — once moderate and thoughtful — would go so far to the right,” she said.

About 1,000 delegates are expected to attend this weekend’s Democratic convention, but far fewer attended the opening ceremonies Friday night at the Androscoggin Bank Colis?

A full house is expected today. The four Democrats who are running for governor will address the crowd, and Tim Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, is scheduled to give the keynote speech.

With just over two weeks until the June 8 primary elections, the gubernatorial candidates — Rosa Scarcelli, Senate President Elizabeth Mitchell, Steven Rowe and Patrick McGowan — are pushing hard to pick up momentum. They lined the streets leading to the convention center with hundreds of signs.

McGowan promised a coupon for a free Guinness stout to anyone who stopped by his booth.

In a less partisan vein, the convention paid tribute to Gov. John Baldacci, a Democrat whose second term will end in January.

Baldacci has served as an elected official for more than 30 years, starting at the city council level and moving up to the State House, Congress and then the Blaine House.

Praise for Baldacci came from a leader in the gay-rights movement, a university professor involved in wind projects, and a labor representative.

His son, Jack Baldacci, a student at the University of Maine, gave a rare speech about his father. Soft-spoken and shy, the younger Baldacci praised his dad for his service.

“He’s the hardest worker I’ve ever known,” he said.

John Baldacci said Democrats have shown they can balance budgets, pass tax reform and make health care accessible to more people.

He said the party will have to unify behind its nominee on the day after the primary.

“Whoever wins this primary will need all of our help,” he said.

 

MaineToday Media State House Reporter Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at: [email protected]