AUGUSTA — Maine Republicans say they’re energized and ready for a lively exchange of views when 3,000 party activists meet at this weekend’s convention, where they’ll gear up for big fall races, examine their candidates and hear a farewell speech from a long-time party pillar, U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe.

The delegates will convene Saturday and Sunday in Augusta. Besides electing 21 of the state’s 24 delegates to the national GOP convention Aug. 27-30 in Tampa – three delegates are automatically seated by party offices – the Maine convention will adopt a state party platform.

They’ll also hear speeches from Sens. Susan Collins and Snowe, who has represented Maine in the U.S. House and Senate since 1978 but has decided not to run for re-election.

Snowe said today she expects a “lively” gathering. She said she was still working on her speech, but expects to talk about issues Republicans need to focus on and a “failure of leadership, frankly, as I’ve seen it in Washington that’s the source of my frustration in our inability and our failure to address the major issues of our time.

“This is a critical moment in the life of the nation, and we’re at a crossroads in determining what kind of nation we’re going to be. And we’ve not addressed those issues that could have a great bearing on the direction of our destiny as a nation,” said Snowe.

Convention-goers will also hear pitches from the six candidates for the party’s nomination for Snowe’s open seat, as well as congressional candidates. The keynote address is expected to be a top surrogate for the expected GOP presidential nominee, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney; the speaker’s name had not been announced as of today.

With a lot of new faces among their ranks, Republicans are coming energized and ready to do battle to hold their thin legislative majorities and to keep Snowe’s seat in their party’s hands, said Jim Carlton, who chairs the Lincoln County Republican Committee. He said this convention will be different from those of the past.

“The old-style Republicans came together, maybe went to a cocktail party and thought they were involved. This is a whole fresh group of people,” said Carlton. “It’s a more engaged, proactive Republican Party than it was a few years ago.”

The gathering presents challenges as Republicans seek to overcome any divisions left by the party’s February caucuses, which some GOP activists complained were mishandled by state party leaders. The discord led to a vote by the state committee on whether to retain Charlie Webster as state chair. Webster retained his post.

Lingering bitterness by Ron Paul’s supporters in the state could be played out in a contest for convention chairman, a showdown that’s unusual if not unprecedented in the Maine GOP, party insiders say. This weekend’s contestants are Charles Cragin, a 1982 gubernatorial candidate representing the party mainstream, and Brent Tweed, a Paul supporter and state GOP committee member from York County.

While Romney narrowly won the caucuses, Paul retains significant support among Maine Republicans.

Chris Gardner, the Washington County GOP chairman who was unhappy with the presidential caucus voting was handled, said Wednesday he doesn’t expect infighting and discord others suggest will erupt at the convention.

“I think we’re going to have a lively but very interesting convention,” Gardner said, adding that debate over issues and the platform strengthen the party.

Gov. Paul LePage, who will speak to the convention on Sunday just before Snowe takes the stage, brings big presence to the convention. While his occasional verbal darts have been troubling to some Republicans, the conservative LePage is widely recognized for bringing new enthusiasm and vitality to the party, GOP activists say.

In late April, the outspoken governor riled some Republican lawmakers when he characterized middle-managers in state government as “corrupt,” a comment he later finessed by saying they were “corrupted by the bureaucracy.”

Party leaders are paying extra attention to the adoption of a platform of party principles, two years after tea party activists succeeded in inserting language friendly to their beliefs. This time, party leaders saw to it that all philosophical viewpoints were invited to sit on the platform committee as it prepared a draft, said party Executive Director Mike Quatrano.