The Maine Republican Party’s socially conservative 2022 platform has created a rift among party members in southern Maine, with some worrying that the shift will drive people away and backfire at the polls, while others are embracing the changes.

The 1,800 delegates who gathered in the Augusta Civic Center for the party convention last Friday and Saturday amended the party platform to ban “critical race theory” and sexually based and transgender identity material in K-12 public schools. And the delegates rejected an attempt to remove its one woman-one man definition of marriage.

And while some Republicans say the state and the nation have been going the wrong way and see the new platform as a much-needed course correction, others view the document as proof the party is willing to alienate members and put Republican candidates at risk of losing voters.

Meredith Burgess, outside her office in Falmouth on Monday, didn’t go to the Maine Republican Party convention this year for the first time since she first went in 1972. She worries that the party’s 2022 platform could alienate moderate voters. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Meredith Strang Burgess, a longtime member of the Cumberland Republican Town Committee, skipped this year’s convention, the first she’s missed since attending her first in 1972. She and a few other committee officers stepped down from their posts after reading the first draft of the 2022 platform, she said.

She said the party has moved further to the right and she isn’t sure how or if she fits into it anymore. She believes the party’s shift will alienate Republicans like her, who are more focused on economic issues such as promoting small government, free market principles and individual freedoms as opposed to social issues.

“The party took some strong social stances I can’t support,” she said. “I’m not going to run down the street and say this (platform) is a great thing and I support it, because I don’t.”


Malcolm Longenecker, a Republican from Alfred who attended the convention, said he’s pleased with the platform – especially the sections that focus on banning sex education and critical race-theory in schools, limiting immigration and requiring voters to show state identification at voting booths.

“Teaching kids about different gender identities in kindergarten, first and second grade is crazy and confuses them,” he said. “It’s very inappropriate.”


Longenecker said some aspects of the platform might push people away, but that that doesn’t matter. “It’s the right thing to do and the right way for the state and the nation to go,” he said.

Jessica Sullivan, chair of the Cape Elizabeth Republican Town Committee, attended the convention as delegation chair. She voted to remove the one woman-one man definition of marriage from the platform.

“I voted to strike that – I don’t think it belongs in the platform,” Sullivan said. “I was in the minority, unfortunately. First of all, (gay marriage is) already law. My personal feeling is God is a loving god and he loves everybody.”


Sullivan also opposed the plank against providing sexually based material in K-12 schools, although she supported the ban when it applied up to fourth grade.

Maine State Representative Jim Thorne, playing the Constable, puts an Angus King impersonator, fellow Representative Jeff Hanley, in GOP Jail during the Maine Republican Convention at the Augusta Civic Center on Saturday. Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

“I was OK with Grade 4,” Sullivan said. “(Through high school) didn’t make sense to me, although I can understand the frustration some people feel. I thought it was too broad and I didn’t support that because in high school you obviously have biology courses. Kids can be sexually active in high school.”

A self-described moderate Republican, Sullivan said she’s concerned that more conservative social platform issues will make it harder for some people to vote for Republican candidates. “We should be focused on taxes, the economy and inflation,” she said.

Still, Sullivan said she supported the plank against “promoting” subject matter on hormone replacement therapy and surgical gender reassignment in schools. “I don’t think they should be promoting the subject,” she said. “Discuss it, refer it, don’t push it.”


She also supported the plank against critical race theory, saying that she believes schools should be educating, not indoctrinating. She’s concerned that some children are learning that being white is bad.


“Approaching everything with a racial yardstick is a mistake,” Sullivan said. “Common decency should prevail everywhere.”

Critical race theory is based on the idea that race is a social construct, and that racism is inherent in a society’s policies and even its institutions, not just a result of individual prejudices. Advocates claim it examines how racism has shaped America, while opponents say it pits races against each other.

Mike McClellan, outside his home in Raymond on Monday, believes that the additions to the platform will excite the party’s base. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Michael McClellan, a Republican from Raymond and policy director for the Maine Christian Civic League, believes the additions to the platform will excite the state’s Republican base, but he wasn’t sure about how they would impact more moderate Republicans.

“How are the changes going to impact the middle? I don’t have the answer,” he said. “We find that out on Nov. 8.”

Although McClellan voted in favor the platform at the convention this past weekend, he noted some slight qualms with the new amendments. Although he supports banning sex education for younger students, grades K-4, he’s not as sure about banning it through grade 12.

McClellan, who is on the Raymond-area school board and whose wife is a teacher, also indicated that he’s worried about villainizing educators, although he treaded lightly when discussing the topic. He referred to educators as “good people” and said he would like to see parents who have the time get more involved in schools by volunteering.


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