Maine Democrats gathered Friday for their state convention in friendly territory – Portland – and vowed to unite behind whoever is nominated to head the party’s presidential ticket.

In March, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont beat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Maine’s presidential caucuses, which drew a record number of participants. Nationally, Clinton has a big enough lead in the delegate count to be looking beyond the Democratic primaries to the general election in November.

For Maine Democrats, the heavy work of adopting a platform and picking their 30 delegates for the party’s national convention in Philadelphia comes Saturday. Friday night’s opening session featured red-meat speeches designed to fire up the loyalists.

Gerard P. Conley Jr., the convention’s temporary chairman and a former state legislator from Portland, noted that U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said this week that he isn’t ready to endorse the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee, Donald Trump.

“Well guess what, Paul. You’re stuck with him,” Conley said, to cheers from hundreds attending the Maine Democratic State Convention at the Cross Insurance Arena. “And we thought we had problems.”

Maine Attorney General Janet Mills followed up with a speech urging party unity and calling on Democrats to work to elect not only a president, but state legislators. The Maine House has a majority of Democrats, but the Maine Senate has a Republican majority.


She said the fall elections will offer a stark contrast.

“It’s cruelty versus civility, anger versus compassion,” she said. “A race for the very soul of this nation.”

The convention opened with elections of convention officers and the adoption of rules for the gathering. The only hiccup came when delegates inexplicably objected to setting the bar for a quorum at 30 percent. After an explanation and a second vote, the convention agreed that about a third of the delegates had to be present for a vote to be valid.

“It wouldn’t be a Democratic convention without this,” Conley said after that matter was settled.

Conley, who was aided by his father, 86-year-old Gerard Conley Sr., also a former lawmaker from Portland, said it was their “last hurrah” at a state convention. But there were plenty of newcomers, drawn by Sanders, who has been supported by thousands of young people.

One couldn’t contain himself, bellowing out “Go Bernie” after the opening prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance.


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