Tuesday June 05, 2012 | 12:42 PM

While congressional candidates got the spotlight at last weekend’s Democratic National Convention, it was the race for national committeeman that generated the most suspense.

Outgoing Maine Sen. Phil Bartlett, D-Gorham, defeated the incumbent national committeeman, Sam Spencer, by a vote of 550 to 450, the party announced Monday after the delegates' ballots were counted. Both Spencer and Bartlett campaigned hard, greeting the delegates as they arrived at the Augusta Civic Center on Friday and Saturday and personally asking for their support.

The outcome surprised many Dems and appears to be the political price for Spencer’s public criticism of his party during the 2010 governor’s race.

Spencer spoke out against mailings that accused independent candidate Eliot Cutler of being a past lobbyist for big oil and for China, both of which Cutler had denied. One said, ''With Eliot Cutler as Governor, Mainers might as well learn Chinese.''

Spencer issued a statement calling the mailings absurd, dishonest and unworthy of his party. Spencer is Cutler's godson but said at the time he was not supporting Cutler's campaign.

The loyalty issue was on the mind of some delegates during the weekend balloting. Bartlett, for his part, said he was running to unseat Spencer to raise the profile of the position as an advocate for the party.

One committeeman and one committeewoman are elected every four years to serve on the Democratic National Committee. Maggie Allen was re-elected as committee woman.

Cutler’s name was barely mentioned during convention speeches, especially when compared to the steady criticism aimed Gov. LePage, the man who edged him out for the job.

However, Party Chairman Ben Grant took a subtle jab Saturday at Cutler and OneMaine, a non-profit, non-partisan group founded by Cutler to promote bipartisanship. Democrats see the organization as a platform for a Cutler run for governor in 2014.

Grant told the Democrats Saturday that the party represents their shared values and is not to blame  for  gridlock in Congress, despite the charges of critics such as “one man… I mean OneMaine.”

About the Author

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Open Season is your guide to the 2014 campaign. Our team of political writers has its sights set on Maine’s major elections, from the Blaine House to the U.S. Capitol.

Steve Mistler is covering the 2014 governor's race. He covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.
Steve can be reached at 791-6345 or smistler@pressherald.com.
On Twitter: @stevemistler

Eric Russell is covering Independent Eliot Cutler during the 2014 governor's race. He is a general assignment reporter for the Portland Press Herald.
Eric can be reached at 791-6344 or erussell@pressherald.com
On Twitter: @pphericrussell

Matt Byrne is covering Republican Paul LePage during the 2014 governor's race. He covers Falmouth, Cumberland, North Yarmouth, Yarmouth and Freeport for the Portland Press Herald.
Matt can be reached at 791-6303 or mbyrne@pressherald.com
On Twitter: @mattbyrnePPH

Randy Billings is covering Democrat Mike Michaud during the 2014 governor's race. He covers Portland City Hall for the Portland Press Herald.
Randy can be reached at 791-6346 or rbillings@pressherald.com
On Twitter: @randybillings

Kevin Miller is covering Maine's U.S. Senate race and 1st Congressional District race. He covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald.
Kevin can be reached at 317-6256 or kmiller@pressherald.com
On Twitter: @kevinmillerdc

Michael Shepherd is covering Maine's 2nd Congressional District race. He is a news and State House reporter for the Kennebec Journal.
Michael can be reached at 621-5632 or mshepherd@centralmaine.com
On Twitter: @mikeshepherdME

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