A slate of high-profile Democrats, including former vice president and presidential nominee Joe Biden, are scheduled to address the Maine Democratic Party at an online rally this weekend after the coronavirus canceled the party’s in-person annual convention.

The Maine Democratic Party announced in early April it would cancel its convention, which was scheduled to take place at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor starting Friday and running through Sunday. The convention drew around 3,400 people in 2016, the last presidential election year.

“I think we’re all disappointed we can’t meet in person, especially with all the work our county committee in Bangor has been doing,” said Kathleen Marra, chair of the Maine Democratic Party. “It was a difficult decision in that way, but people’s health and safety are paramount in this. I’m very proud of the accuracy and speed at which our staff made a 180-degree turn and set up an exciting program.”

The Maine Republican Party, which had originally planned a convention for May 1 and 2, is still finalizing plans for this year and is hoping to decide how voting by state delegates will be conducted next week, said Executive Director Jason Savage.

“We want to make sure all our plans are in compliance with state law and the (Republican National Committee) rules,” Savage said. “Everybody is working with us. We’re not in some sort of problematic situation, but it’s about making sure everybody gets to participate.”

Democrats announced Friday that Biden will address the party in a “rally” to be live-streamed over Facebook at 3 p.m. Sunday. Other previously announced speakers and guests include senators and former presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, Gov. Janet Mills, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree and U.S. Rep. Jared Golden.

U.S. Senate candidates Sara Gideon, Maine Speaker of the House; Bre Kidman and Betsy Sweet will also attend.

And the rally will also feature short messages from Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez, former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, the party announced Friday.

“One of the exciting parts of this is I’m on weekly phone calls with fellow chairs of state parties and many of them and their volunteers will be able to join in because they don’t have to fly in from Minnesota or Maryland or Utah,” Marra said. “So we’ll all get to enjoy each others’ events. So we’re expecting a fair number of people from out of state as well.”

She said the slate of speakers also points to national interest in Maine this election cycle, both in the presidential and U.S. Senate races. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has honed in on Maine as an opportunity to help flip the Senate to a Democratic majority.

“I think everyone sees Maine as an important and unique opportunity to make change in this country right now,” Marra said.

The state convention is where the party elects delegates to the Democratic National Convention, presidential electors, Democratic National Committee representatives, and members of the Democratic State Committee. Voting by state delegates, which started Friday, is taking place over the phone and online through the weekend.

Savage said Republicans are also looking at ways to “bring some excitement” to the process as well as draw attention to issues impacting people in Maine.

“I don’t think there’s a better time for us to be talking about the impact of who gets elected in your local House and Senate races and the impact of elections,” he said.

Maine Democrats’ event comes as state and national parties are debating how to safely hold their conventions amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In North Carolina, where the Republican National Committee is scheduled to hold its convention Aug. 24 through 27, President Trump has clashed with the state’s Democratic governor, who has expressed concerns about how to ensure the safety of thousands of attendees.

The Democratic National Convention is currently planned for the week of Aug. 17 in Milwaukee.

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