May 7, 2012

State House Notebook: Newcomers to GOP convention call it hectic

From staff reports

Ron Paul supporters Mike Kreamer of Monmouth and his partner, Karen Latlippe, attended their first Maine Republican Party State Convention this weekend.

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They described it as hectic.

"You could see the establishment kind of drag their feet and try to keep those crazy Ron Paul people on the outside," Kreamer said.

Yet with many of them showing up before 6 a.m. Saturday, raising multiple points of order during the proceedings, and garnering a majority of the delegates to the national convention, the Paul supporters successfully took over the convention. Even though they know Paul will not be on the ballot in November, they are proud to support him, Kreamer said.

"It's good to see a bunch of Republicans that aren't only overly concerned with social issues," he said.

For one state senator, the Paul supporters' enthusiasm and youth is a welcome addition to the Grand Old Party.

"It's a sign of a party that's becoming more and more diversified, and I think that's healthy," said Sen. Ron Collins, R-Wells.

THE LEPAGE EFFECT

One convention-goer this weekend said she's seen a big difference in the state, and at the state Department of Environmental Protection in particular, since Gov. Paul LePage has been in office.

Charlene Strauss of Bass Harbor said she and her husband have tried for years to get DEP permits for a road that leads to their small boatyard. The problem has always been that at high tide, water washes over the road.

"The DEP representative who had come down through the years said this used to be called marine habitat," she said. "Now under LePage, we call it a road."

They still had to shell out a lot of money to get their permits, but they finally have them in hand, she said.

"We attribute that 100 percent to Gov. LePage," she said.

MORE GAY-MARRIAGE OPPONENTS

Erick Bennett, a Republican who worked on LePage's campaign and ran as a write-in for Portland mayor, says he intends to form a new political action committee to oppose gay marriage.

The Maine Marriage Allies PAC, based in Portland, will soon become official with a filing at the ethics commission, Bennett announced last week.

"This is the fourth time they tried to pass gay marriage in Maine after both sides spent almost $10 million neither was able to explain what the issue was about," he wrote in a news release.

By fourth time, he is referring to two votes to add gays and lesbians to the protected classes listed in the Maine Human Rights Act and the 2009 vote to repeal gay marriage, 53-47 percent.

Calling himself the Maine Equal Rights Center, Bennett said he wants to provide a website and Facebook page so people can discuss all the issues surrounding gay marriage "so Mainers can cast an informed vote to defeat gay marriage in November."

"The Maine Equal Rights Center supports the people of faith that want to protect what they consider the sanctity of marriage, but we also support same-sex couples getting the legal benefits everyone else does," he wrote.

A few weeks ago, religious leaders who support gay marriage gathered in Saco to talk about how best to help pass the ballot question this time around. Other supporters include the Maine Civil Liberties Union, Maine Peoples Alliance and the Maine Women's Lobby.

Bennett's group is the third distinct effort in opposition. The National Organization for Marriage and Christian Civic League have joined together to fight the ballot question, and Michael Heath and Paul Madore say they too will have their own group in opposition.

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