The Maine Republican party is going to have some star power at its state convention this weekend. Conservative radio talk show host Howie Carr will be broadcasting live, and Ben Carson will deliver the keynote address.

But organizers hope the excitement ends there; they’re not looking for controversy.

“We hope it’s more in the way of building positive excitement for our party, not the type of controversy that surrounded the 2012 convention,” said Jason Savage, the party’s executive director, referring to a coup staged by Ron Paul supporters at the August Civic Center.

More than 2,000 party activists are expected to attend the event Friday and Saturday at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. Carson and Carr are part of Friday’s festivities. The event wraps up with a speech by Gov. Paul LePage.

In 2010, the party’s shift to the right was underscored by tea party activists who imposed a platform that referred to the “global warming myth” and promoted “Austrian economics.”

Two years later, libertarians made their presence known, taking control of the state convention and electing a slate of Ron Paul supporters to the national convention. Paul supporters had contested the candidate’s second-place finish in Maine’s Republican presidential caucuses.


Former Chairman Charlie Webster, who presided over both of those contentious conventions, said he was happy to see the 2014 convention went smoothly.

He hopes for the same this year. “We’ve got our candidate,” he said, referring to Ted Cruz, who won the Republican presidential caucuses in Maine. “I think we’ll be fine.”

In recent history, Maine’s Republican caucuses were dubbed a “beauty contest” because the tallies weren’t binding and delegates were actually allotted at the state convention.

But that changed this year when Republican leaders agreed to make the caucus votes binding. The apportionment provides 12 delegates to Cruz, the winner, and nine delegates for New York businessman Donald Trump. Ohio Gov. John Kasich gets two delegates for his third-place finish.

Rick Bennett, the current state party chairman, said nearly 200 people — a record — are seeking to serve as national delegates. At the state convention, 20 delegates and 20 alternates will be elected, and they will go to the national convention this summer in Cleveland.

Bennett is credited with bringing the party together after the 2010 and 2012 debacles. The 2014 convention overseen by Bennett was largely uneventful.

“I’ve been scrupulously neutral,” he said. “I think the main thing is you have to run a fair convention where people are feeling like they’re getting their voices heard.”

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