Monday, December 9, 2013
While dozens of political devotees from Maine attend the Democratic and Republican national conventions later this summer, there will be some notable absences: several of the people who hope to represent the state in Congress next year.
Staff Photo by John Ewing/Staff Photographer... Sunday, October 31, 2010....A Get Out the Vote Rally for democratic candidates featured former President Bill Clinton at the Lewiston Armory. Maine Representative Mike Michaud poses for a photo before the event.
Modern national party conventions are largely about galvanizing the base and formally introducing -- in the best possible light -- the presidential nominees to the American public.
The massive pep rallies are also a chance for elected leaders to connect with party activists to build cohesion for important local races.
With this year's conventions scheduled for late August and early September, some candidates for Maine's U.S. House and Senate seats are opting to stay home and campaign.
In Maine's 2nd Congressional District, Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud and his Republican challenger, Kevin Raye of Perry, plan to skip the events.
"The congressman has a competitive campaign this year and we typically are ramping up the campaign at that time," said Michaud's chief of staff, Peter Chandler, when asked about Michaud's participation in the Democratic convention Sept. 3-6 in Charlotte, N.C.
"The congressman feels it is important to be back home in Maine at that time."
Raye, who as state Senate president is one of Maine's top GOP officials, said he didn't even seek election as a delegate to the Republican convention Aug. 27-30 in Tampa.
"Given my campaign and knowing how precious time is, I thought my time was best spent in the state," Raye said.
Like Raye and Michaud, candidates across the country are weighing whether to attend the conventions. The head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the organization that works to maintain and build the Democrats' ranks in the House, recently told his members to stay at home this year.
"If they want to win an election, they need to be in their districts," said U.S. Rep. Steve Israel of New York, chairman of the Democratic campaign committee, at a summit organized by the Reuters news service last week.
"I don't care if the president was at 122 percent favorability right now ... I think (candidates) should be in their districts."
Israel's latter statement was a reference to Republicans' suggestion that Democratic members of Congress who face tight races will avoid the convention because they don't want to be linked to President Obama in the minds of voters back home.
The reality is that the timing of both conventions so late in the summer -- running beyond Labor Day for the Democrats -- is clearly on the minds of candidates from both parties.
Although it's not regarded as a swing state in the presidential election, Maine could help decide which party controls the House and the Senate.
Raye, a veteran state lawmaker who also worked on Capitol Hill, is widely regarded as Michaud's most formidable challenger in years.
Sen. Olympia Snowe's abrupt decision to retire after this year has opened up a Senate seat that had been considered safely Republican.
While former Gov. Angus King, an independent, is the current front-runner in that race, Republican Secretary of State Charlie Summers and state Sen. Cynthia Dill, D-Cape Elizabeth, are hoping to close the gap in the coming months.
A spokesman for Dill's campaign, Bob Mentzinger, said in an email Friday that Dill has "passed on attending the convention, opting instead to stay in Maine and listen to voters."
Neither Summers nor his campaign officials could be reached for comment on Friday.
U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, who is running against Republican state Rep. Jonathan Courtney of Springvale in the 1st Congressional District, plans to join her fellow Democrats in Charlotte for at least part of the convention.
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