Maine Democrats took some heat from the Maine Republican Party for their lineup of speakers at this weekend’s state convention. However, Democrats will have some legitimate star power at their annual Muskie Lobster Bake in August when party stalwart James Carville comes to Maine.

Carville is perhaps best known as the lead political strategist for Bill Clinton during his successful bid for the White House in 1992. He’s remained a party loyalist ever since, pushing out the views of the Democratic National Committee as a commentator on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, et al. He’s also had a few cameo appearances on the big screen, including “Old School” (great movie) and “G.I. Joe Retaliation” (terrible).

The rumor among Maine Democrats is that the party had hoped to have Carville at the convention in Bangor, but he had a scheduling conflict. Officials within the party also say that the convention is geared toward highlighting its candidates, in particular gubernatorial hopeful Mike Michaud, a six-term congressman.

As for a keynote speaker, the party brought in former three-time mayor of Minneapolis and vice chairman of the DNC, R.T. Rybak. Rybak probably isn’t well known in Maine, but he has a high profile in his home state and in the DNC, where he is known as a strong surrogate for President Obama.

Rybak, 58, suffered a heart attack earlier this year. He decided not to run for re-election in 2013.

The Maine Republican Party wasted little time pairing Rybak’s alleged obscurity with that of their primary target this year, Michaud.

In a lengthy press statement, the party also tagged Rybak as an extreme liberal who made Minneapolis overly reliant on state funding and who spent $50,000 apiece for four “artistic” water fountains (The Minneapolis Star Tribune actually staked out the fountains to see how often they were used. Answer? Not much).

The release doesn’t mention Rybak’s crowd surfing, which appeared as No. 3 on the list of suggested Google searches. Apparently crowd surfing is a thing with Rybak. There are photos all over the Web of Rybak crowd surfing, including several of him at his “unauguration” party in 2013. He also did it in 2012 at Trampled By Turtles concert.

Trampled By Turtles?

Don’t ask.

– Steve Mistler

Bellows camp misfires

The Shenna Bellows for U.S. Senate campaign demonstrated last week how trying to stay ahead of the news can be risky – and politically embarrassing.

Last Wednesday, the Bellows campaign sent out a press release blasting incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins for voting to filibuster a bill dealing with veterans’ benefits.

But there was one major problem with the scathing email: there was no such vote last week. In fact, the Senate was on break all week.

About an hour and 45 minutes later, another email arrived acknowledging the mistake.

“The release was drafted as one potential response to the upcoming Senate vote on the bill,” reads the email from Adam Sarvana, who is handling communications for Bellows. “It was not intended to be sent today or in its current form, and we regret the error.”

The Bellows campaign is by no means the first to hit “send” prematurely or distribute the wrong version of a press release. Numerous veteran congressional press offices have done the same thing. And Collins did vote with Republicans back in February to block consideration of the bill referenced in Bellows’ email.

But Wednesday’s email opened the door for the Collins campaign to hit back.

“Ironically, while Shenna Bellows is busy criticizing imaginary votes and trying to use Maine’s veterans for her own political gain, Senator Collins is right now working to make permanent the Access Received Closer to Home pilot program that allows veterans in Northern Maine and other rural areas to access VA health care services through local, non-VA providers, forgoing long trips to Togus (the VA hospital in Augusta) and receiving quality care closer to home,” said Collins’ campaign spokesman, Lance Dutson.

Bellows is a Democratic challenger facing a well-funded and relatively popular incumbent. So it’s no surprise that her campaign would seek to capitalize on any votes where it can attempt to portray Collins as being more beholden to her own party’s interests than those of her constituents.

It’s obvious that some thought was put into Bellows’ original, erroneously sent email. Bellows’ statement claims she heard Collins saying during a Memorial Day parade that she had made helping veterans a top priority.

“It’s not enough to support veterans in theory if you’re not willing to buck your leadership and support them in fact,” Bellows was quoted as saying.

In another respect, however, Wednesday’s premature missive arrived several months late.

Collins did, in fact, vote with most of her Republican colleagues back in February to block Senate consideration of the bill in question, a $21 billion piece of legislation known as the Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014.

The Democratic-sponsored bill aimed to, among other things, provide health coverage to more uninsured veterans, improve dental coverage and allow veterans to qualify for in-state tuition at public colleges in whichever state they are living.

As is typical in Washington, however, the bill fell victim to partisan sniping over how to pay for the expansion and Democratic leaders’ refusal to allow a vote on a slimmed-down Republican bill that also threatened Iran with additional sanctions.

– Kevin Miller

Cain recipient of six-figure ad buy

State Sen. Emily Cain of Orono, a Democrat running for the party’s nomination to the 2nd Congressional District seat, will be the beneficiary of another six-figure ad campaign from a big-spending national outside group.

EMILY’s List, a group that helps elect pro-choice women and endorsed Cain last year, said its ads will start running June 3 in the Bangor market, bolstered by cable time in the Portland market, which reaches Androscoggin County and other areas of the district.

State Sen. Troy Jackson of Allagash, Cain’s primary opponent, has cast votes against abortion rights in the Legislature. But he has said he wouldn’t vote to restrict them if elected to Congress.

The ads “will educate voters on Cain’s work as a champion for women to control their health care decisions as well as a leader in protecting Maine’s rivers and natural resources,” the group said in a written statement.

Marcy Stech, the group’s spokeswoman, said it’s a “six-figure” purchase, but she wouldn’t specify the exact amount.

No matter how you slice it, it’s a huge sum in this primary, which is already seeing a $150,000 mail campaign against Jackson that was announced last month by the League of Conservation Voters, a national environmental group.

Jackson has already made political hay of that ad campaign, claiming it was likely prompted by a contribution to the environmental group by S. Donald Sussman, a top Democratic donor who has given money to Cain and is majority owner of MaineToday Media, publisher of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel.

Jackson spokesman Alan Brewer said Cain’s outside contributions indicate that Jackson can win the seat. He said outsiders “are coming in to prop up a candidate running up against grassroots momentum.”

“I think the question is, ‘Can outsiders buy Emily Cain a seat in Congress, or can the working people of Maine elect a candidate of their own, Troy Jackson?'” he said.

– Michael Shepherd

Endorsement questionnaires

Before interest groups make endorsements in a political race, they often send questionnaires for candidates to fill out.

The questions range from general (Why are you running for governor?) to specific (Do you support the right of a woman to choose whether to terminate a pregnancy if she is the victim of rape or incest?)

The questionnaires are meant to give the organization a foundation on which to decide which candidate best supports its mission and values.

The campaign of Eliot Cutler, independent candidate for governor, has courted many endorsements so far without much success.

But Cutler believes the questionnaires provide value to the public as well.

Last week, the Cutler campaign announced that it would post all of its answers to questionnaires on its campaign website. So far, the campaign has posted answers from the Sierra Club, The MSEA/SEIU (state employees’ union), the AFL/CIO, Maine Conservation Voters and Planned Parenthood.

“It’s important that the people of Maine know where candidates stand on issues important to them,” Cutler said in a statement. “Both of the party candidates are still refusing to debate, depriving Maine voters of an important opportunity to compare where they stand.

“At the very least, Mr. Michaud and Mr. LePage ought to post the answers to the questionnaires they have received.”

It’s worth noting that all of those organizations (except Planned Parenthood, which has not announced its endorsement) have endorsed Democrat Mike Michaud for governor.

Asked by the Press Herald to provide responses to the same questionnaires Cutler posted on its website, Michaud campaign spokeswoman Lizzy Reinholt provided them almost immediately.

Asked to address the criticism by Cutler that the responses should be on the campaign website, Reinholt said Michaud “makes his stance extremely clear. Focusing on what we put on our website is just a distraction from the Cutler campaign.”

LePage’s senior campaign adviser, Brent Littlefield, declined to directly answer questions about whether the campaign has filled out any questionnaires yet.

– Eric Russell

Open Season is a compilation of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram political blogs, Open Season and Capitol Ticker. Press Herald/Telegram staff writers Steve Mistler, Randy Billings, Eric Russell, Kevin Miller and Matt Byrne and Kennebec Journal reporter Michael Shepherd contribute to the blogs.