May 7, 2012

Bill Nemitz: Leadership lost in chaos of convention

(Continued from page 1)

And now, as those seeds sprouted in May, they choked out much of what normally fills up a state convention agenda.

Take, for example, the six Republican candidates vying for the nomination to succeed the outgoing Sen. Olympia Snowe.

In the end, Sunday afternoon's appearances by each candidate before the full convention -- normally a highlight of these affairs -- never happened. Instead, the candidates fanned out -- to the lobby steps, to empty meeting rooms -- and preached primarily to their own choirs.

Even as his competitors scattered, Attorney General William Schneider said he still planned to pitch his Senate candidacy from the main stage in front of the entire convention.

Yet moments later, Schneider could only issue a statement to the media expressing his disappointment that this onetime opportunity to introduce himself to a statewide audience was "lost to the chaos of the convention."

And so it went. As the hours ticked away and the hecklers lambasted this motion or challenged that vote, party veterans scratched their heads and wondered how Maine's GOP got itself into this mess -- and where it goes from here.

"It's totally fractured," observed party veteran Charles Cragin, who was supposed to serve as convention chairman before Tweed beat him by a mere four votes.

Cragin said he fully expects the newcomers, their seats at the national convention now secure, will next set their sights on state party Chairman Webster.

"They'll kick him out," Cragin said. "If they have the votes on the state committee, I think Charlie would be very hard pressed to survive that sort of situation. Obviously, that's what they're trying to do."

But Cragin, like several other old-timers, also worried that the Paul supporters will stick around only as long as their guy occupies the national stage.

"Will the fervor continue? Will they actually run the party?" he asked. "Will they actually go out and solicit the money that's necessary to elect members of the state Legislature?"

They just might. As the convention's 6 p.m. closing time approached and Webster and others warned that it would cost the party precious cash to run late, a Paul supporter stepped forward and urged his colleagues to each contribute $10 to help keep the lights on.

Seconds later, a Romney supporter stepped up to the microphone and urged his side to do the same.

Outside near the snack bar, Barry Bixby of Hebron sipped a hot coffee and marveled that a political convention -- his first -- could be so downright divisive.

Just a guess, but might he be a Ron Paul supporter?

Bixby nodded.

"But right now I'm thinking Gandhi," he said. "Keep the peace."

Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:


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