LEWISTON — When Gov. Paul LePage took the stage at The Dolard & Priscilla Gendron Franco Center on Friday night, he didn’t spend a lot of time offering warm platitudes. Instead, he chastised his Republican brothers and sisters for too frequently working at cross purposes.

“If you’re going to be a Republican in this country – if you’re going to have an R next to your name – you’re not going to get good press,” LePage told them. “That’s why we need to be working together.”

Hundreds of Androscoggin County Republicans filled the lower floor at the Franco Center. There was some campaigning, but for the most part the Lincoln Day Celebration was about supporting the party and preparing for the coming election battles.

The consequences of not working together, LePage stressed, are dire: the possibility of a Democrat in the Blaine House come November.

“The two people I do not want to see as governor of Maine are Adam Cote and Janet Mills,” he said of two of the strongest Democratic candidates. “We better get it together. If we don’t get it together, we lose.”

LePage showed up at the event gravelly voiced, animated and occasionally angry. He offered up a variety of instances where his efforts were thwarted by fellow Republicans, his voice rising in frustration. As he railed on the importance of party unity, the room fell almost completely silent, the audience tense and hanging on his words.

But LePage also listed a number of successes, many of them recent. A $28 million plant planned in Millinocket expected to bring 120 new jobs to the state. A nearly $1 billion transmission line proposed by Central Maine Power to bring hydropower from Quebec. A $1.5 billion investment in Maine infrastructure.

“This week,” LePage said, “has been the best week for economic development. Some great things are happening.”

He also talked about money he has made available for home care services and for people with intellectual disabilities – money he says is presently under threat by the Democrats.

“I will not stand by,” LePage thundered, “and watch it be taken away without a fight.”

LePage’s 20-minute speech was a crowd-stirring mix of frustration, defiance and optimism for the Republican Party in the state of Maine.

“Holy cow,” Lewiston Mayor Shane Bouchard said. “It was a very energetic speech. I think Paul LePage is the first politician I’ve seen going into his last term with more energy than when he started. He’s got a lot of goals he hasn’t met yet and he wants to meet them. He’s working hard to do it.”

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-2nd District, stuck with the Lincoln Day theme in his remarks, drawing comparisons between the ugly political battles of today to the upheaval of the Civil War period.

“Can you imagine what it was like from 1860 to 1865?” Poliquin asked. “Can you imagine what the discourse was like at that time? Can you imagine what he went through?”

When the Republicans choose their gubernatorial candidate in June, Poliquin advised that the whole party rally around him or her.

Whoever it is, Poliquin said, “I’m all in. Period.”

The Franco Center was wall-to-wall with GOP luminaries, some looking to gain support for their own campaigns, most of them just embracing the party and the fights to come.

“All the heavy-hitters are here,” said John A. Pape, who is seeking the House District 75 seat. “It’s a who’s who of the Republican Party, and not just of Androscoggin County. It’s a hotbed. The fact that we draw this size crowd gives credence to the event.”

“I believe this will be our best event ever,” said Patti Gagne, chairwoman of the Androscoggin County Republicans. “I’m just thrilled with the turnout. Everyone’s getting along. It’s so nice.”

Everyone getting along wasn’t a guarantee, considering how many people are competing for the same political positions. In that one space at the Franco Center were five people hoping to become the next Republican governor.

“This is a great opportunity for voters to meet all the candidates,” said Shawn Moody, one of those hoping to secure the Republican nomination for governor. “It’s a chance for them to talk to us; to hear about our backgrounds. This is an important part of the political process.”

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