September 16, 2010

Mainers hail tea partiers' impact

Local tea party leaders aren't predicting Maine will vote as Delaware did, but 'you never know.'

By Glenn Jordan gjordan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

The success of candidates with tea party backing in several prominent primary elections Tuesday did not surprise Pete Harring of Standish.

Harring, the head of a local group known as Maine Refounders, is scheduled to speak at a tea party event in Westbrook on Sunday afternoon.

"I was quite impressed with what happened in Delaware," Harring said of conservative Christine O'Donnell's upset over Rep. Michael Castle in the Republican Senate primary. "I think that's a good sign people are getting fed up with politics as usual."

Whether the movement continues its success through the general elections in November remains to be seen, but "anything's possible," Harring said. "You never know, with a movement that's growing."

Jack Wibby of Gray, communications director of the Cumberland County Tea Party Patriots, said the five gubernatorial candidates on Maine's ballot are invited to Sunday's Meet the Candidates event, the movement's first major gathering in Maine since April 15 in Augusta. Candidates in other races also are invited.

Dean Scontras of Eliot, the Republican challenger in the 1st District congressional race against Rep. Chellie Pingree of North Haven, is one of the scheduled speakers.

Scontras is bidding to become only the second challenger in the past half-century to unseat the incumbent in Maine's 1st District, which has been in Democratic hands since Tom Allen defeated Republican Jim Longley Jr. in 1996.

The only other successful challenger since 1960 was Republican David Emery of Rockland, in 1974, when he upset heavily favored Democrat Peter Kyros of Portland after Kyros had served four terms in Washington.

"Whether there's going to be a debacle for Democrats on Nov. 2 is speculation," Wibby said. "But I think the tea party is going to make a difference. They certainly did in the Republican primary," won by Paul LePage in June.

Andrew Ian Dodge of Harpswell, coordinator of the state's various tea party groups, said the movement will continue regardless of November's results.

He said, "A lot of candidates on the right have realized we're a force to be reckoned with."

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

gjordan@pressherald.com

 

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