AUGUSTA – Despite delays and procedural wrangling, convention-goers heard loud and clear from candidates for Congress and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins that Republicans must fight this fall to advance their ideas.

Collins said Republicans have brought real change to the state, from cutting taxes and bureaucratic red tape, to cleaning up abuses at the Maine Turnpike Authority.

“Thanks to Republican leadership, Maine now has a turnpike authority and a housing authority that are focused on serving the public, not on providing luxury travel, magic shows, and back rubs to their administrators,” she said.

“The message is clear: When the taxpayers are picking up the tab, there’s no such thing as a free gift card.”

Each of the four men running for Congress had to cut their speeches in half to meet the new convention agenda put in place by Chairman Brent Tweed.

Maine Senate President Kevin Raye, a candidate for the 2nd District House seat, said he has established a record at the State House of cutting taxes and reforming welfare that will make him a strong member of Congress.

“With your help, we will return this seat to the Republican column in November,” he said, noting that he would vote to repeal national health care and replace it with a different plan.

His primary opponent, Blaine Richardson, is a retired Navy captain who said he’s ready to serve the country again.

“People, it is time we take our country back,” he said. “I’m here to tell you I’m proven.”

The winner of the Raye-versus-Richardson primary will face U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, a Democrat, in the November election.

In the 1st District GOP primary, Maine Senate Majority Leader Jonathan Courtney will face Patrick Calder, a cruise ship engineer.

Courtney said he won’t be intimidated by the funding of his potential opponent, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District. Pingree is married to hedge fund billionaire Donald Sussman, who owns 75 percent of MaineToday Media, which includes The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, Kennebec Journal, Morning Sentinel and related websites.

“When I am in Congress, I will never turn my back on the people of Maine,” Courtney said.

Calder touted his lack of elected experience as a positive.

“Victory will be when we restore our fiscal discipline,” he said. “Our government is what the Constitution says it is, no more and no less.”

Keynote speaker Scott Romney, brother of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, said, “Now is the time to unite so we can come together to defeat one of the most failed presidencies in our history.”

State House Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at:

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Twitter: @smcover