PORTLAND – Dueling Republican and Democratic rallies, held down the street from each other, drew national political figures to Maine’s largest city Saturday.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani headlined at a Republican rally at 58 Fore St. that drew 200 supporters of Dean Scontras, who is challenging first-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat representing Maine’s 1st District.

Meanwhile, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine kicked off a rally at 144 Fore St. that drew about 100 supporters preparing to canvass for Pingree and Libby Mitchell, the Democratic candidate for governor.

Both groups were keyed up to energize voters in the final days leading up to Tuesday’s election.

The Scontras crowd was bolstered by a recent poll in which he received 45 percent support compared with 41 percent for Pingree. The telephone poll of 295 likely voters, conducted Wednesday and Thursday by Critical Insights for MaineToday Media, has a margin of error of 5.7 percentage points.

Giuliani, who came to Maine earlier this election season for a Scontras fundraiser, said he had been following Scontras’ progress and was optimistic about his chances of winning the race.

“We realize this economy wants to recover and the only reason it is being held back is because of the policies of Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama and Harry Reid,” Giuliani said. “So that’s what I think is at the core of this movement. That’s what I think Dean is tapping into and so many people like Dean all over the country. Because the American people are afraid that the choices they used to get to make are, one after another, being moved to Washington, D.C., (and) getting made by bureaucrats.”

Supporters also heard from top Maine Republicans U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, former Gov. John McKernan and former U.S. Rep. Dave Emery, both of whom used to represent Maine’s 1st District.

“Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve seen the enthusiasm and the energy for Dean,” Collins said. “It’s growing every day, as the great polls are showing. I’ve talked to unemployed Mainers, looking for work, and discouraged that Washington is not focusing like a laser on jobs and the economy. They know that Dean Scontras gets it and that he’ll be a fighter for them in Washington.”

Snowe gave a particularly fiery speech describing Scontras as a candidate who understands that people know how to spend their money better than government does. Snowe and Collins were among the few Senate Republicans who broke ranks with their party to vote with Democrats on certain legislation, including the federal stimulus package and financial regulation reform.

“This is a time when it’s nothing short of an economic imperative that we hit a giant reset button on the Democratic majority (and) this administration’s policies,” Snowe said. “This is our moment, this is our chance, this is our opportunity to change the course of the direction of this country. It cannot come a moment too soon.”

At the Democratic rally, Kaine, who is a former governor of Virginia and was considered a possible running mate for President Obama, spoke with urgency about the need to have an effective ground campaign in a political climate that is challenging incumbents and Democrats.

Kaine noted the strides that both Pingree and Mitchell have made in promoting health care reform, education, economic development, environmental sustainability and alternative energy, as well as Pingree’s efforts to address the Wall Street crisis and the recession.

“Libby Mitchell will take Maine forward,” Kaine said. “Chellie Pingree will take Maine and the nation forward.”

 

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard contributed to this report.

 

MaineToday Media State House Writer Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at: [email protected]