Politico had an interesting story last week about how Las Vegas (you know, the place where “What Happens Here Stays Here”) is making a comeback among politicians looking to schmooze and raise money.

Politico noted how former Secretary of State and potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Republican House Speaker John Boehner have all recently made political sojourns to Sin City, which is home to Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire who is a major donor for Republicans.

The piece noted that the United Steelworkers of America were having their annual conference, spanning four days, in Vegas. Speakers included Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who represents Nevada, and U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, Maine’s Democratic nominee for governor.

According to Michaud campaign spokeswoman Lizzy Reinholt, Michaud, a former millworker who is a USW member, spent less than 24 hours in Vegas on Wednesday. Michaud addressed the convention but did not raise any money for his campaign.

But that’s not to say he didn’t do any fundraising.

While in Vegas, Michaud – surrounded by his union brethren – accepted the “Ice Bucket Challenge” from Emily Cain, a Democrat seeking the 2nd Congressional District seat against Republican Bruce Poliquin, to raise money to fight ALS.

I would be remiss if I didn’t note that Rick Bennett, chairman of the Maine Republican Party, accepted Michaud’s challenge on Thursday.

According to the USW’s daily newsletter, Michaud credited USW activists for helping him earn 96 percent of the vote in his hometown of East Millinocket during a six-way primary for the 2nd District in 2002. Michaud noted the importance of solidarity among union workers, reportedly telling the crowd that voter turnout was so high in 2002 the town was running out of ballots.

– Randy Billings

ONE OF GOP’S TOP ’14 IN ’14’

The District 25 state Senate race is attracting national attention from a Republican organization seeking to elect Republican women to state-level offices.

Cathy Manchester, a real estate agent, has been named one of the top “14 in ’14” by the Republican State Leadership Committee’s “Right Women, Right Now” campaign.

Manchester is facing Democrat Cathy Breen for the seat that represents Chebeague Island, Cumberland, Falmouth, Gray, Long Island, Yarmouth and part of Westbrook. Maine Republicans see an opportunity to pick up the seat, since independent Richard Woodbury is not seeking re-election.

“Manchester is a top targeted pick-up opportunity for Senate Republicans to gain the three seats necessary to recapture the Majority held in 2011-2012,” the group said in a short biography in a brochure about its top 14 races.

Manchester’s opponent is a community volunteer and board member of Spurwink Services. Breen previously told the Press Herald that the Maine Senate should include people with various backgrounds and experiences, so it represents broad interests and reaches optimum solutions to Maine’s educational, health care and economic challenges.

According its website, the Republican State Leadership Committee concentrates on recruiting candidates and “providing them with research, financial support and assistance in message development and delivery.”

“The RSLC has more than 100,000 donors in all 50 states. In the 2011-2012 election cycle, the RSLC invested in 42 states, breaking previous fundraising and political spending records, set in 2009-2010, with an increase in fundraising by 28 percent to $39 million and an increase in direct political spending by 35 percent to $27 million.”

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the RSLC has raised $20.4 million this year and spent $18.5 million. The group’s biggest donors are insurer Blue Cross/Blue Shield ($935,713), tobacco giant Reynolds American ($788,982) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and related entities ($496,245). Koch Industries has contributed $359,940.

– Randy Billings


U.S. Senate candidate Shenna Bellows marked the completion of her 350-mile campaign walk last week with events in Kittery and Portland, where she continued to portray herself as the best candidate to represent working-class Mainers.

Bellows, a Democrat who is challenging Republican Sen. Susan Collins, began her walk in Houlton on July 20 and completed the trek on schedule in Kittery on Tuesday morning.

“Rest assured this isn’t the end, this is the beginning,” Bellows said during a later rally in Portland’s Monument Square attended by 100 to 150 supporters. “This is the beginning of a conversation that Maine needs to have about the future of our state and our country.”

The walk was modeled after a 600-miler across Maine’s 2nd Congressional District by Republican Bill Cohen during his first campaign for the U.S. House in 1972. Several other Maine candidates from both major parties have undertaken similar campaign walks.

Bellows is a first-time political candidate who established a name for herself in Maine political circles during her eight years as executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine. Yet despite her popularity among progressives and some libertarian voters, she faces an uphill climb as she tries to unseat Collins, a three-term incumbent with strong cross-party support in the past.

In her remarks Tuesday and throughout her walk, Bellows tried to portray Collins as out-of-sync with working-class Mainers on issues such as a $10.10 minimum wage, student loan reform, free-trade pacts and President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Bellows also repeatedly linked Collins to Republican Gov. Paul LePage, whom Collins has endorsed.

“The working class people of Maine deserve real representation,” Bellows said.

Collins campaign spokesman Lance Dutson responded that, at the end of the day, the question comes down to who will better represent Maine interests in Washington. Dutson said Collins’ popularity among voters shows that she has delivered for Mainers during the past 18 years.

“Senator Collins continues to enjoy widespread support, and her approval rating is very high among Republicans, Democrats and independents,” Dutson said. “The people of Maine continue to be very comfortable with Senator Collins and are very supportive of her for another term.”

– Kevin Miller

Campaign Notebook 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.

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