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Toldya: Ben Grant Is New Dem Party Chair

As predicted, on Sunday Ben Grant became the new Chair of the Maine Democratic Party. The delegates also selected former Attorney General Janet Mills as Vice Chair. You can see a complete list of winners here.

Ben and the Dems have their work cut out for them in the next two years as they try to regain a majority in at least one House of the Legislature, rally Mainers to support an alternative to Senator Olympia Snowe, and attempt to recreate the enthusiasm we saw in 2008 for Obama. No small feat, by any measure.

I had the chance to ask the new Dem Chair a few questions, and here is what he told me:

1. In five sentences or less, why are you a Democrat and why do you want to lead the Maine Democratic Party?

I am a Democrat because I believe in society’s capacity to form a more just and tolerant world, and in the realm of politics it is only the Democratic Party that embraces that mission. Ours is the party of progress, of believing that our biggest challenges can be met, and of equal opportunity for all. I believe deeply that the people of this state are better off when the Democratic Party sets the agenda, and all of the things that so many worked so long to create in this state are under immediate and dire threat. I want to lead the party because we have to make 2012 a winning year, and I have the background, commitment, energy and support to set that project in motion. Read more »

Democratic Party Chair: Then There Were Three

On Sunday, January 23rd, Democrats from around the state will gather in Augusta to select a new Chair of the Maine Democratic Party. Over the past few weeks, the field of candidates has been whittled down to three. Some Party insiders have told me, however, that one candidate, Ben Grant, has the votes in place to win and will become the next Chair of the Maine Democratic Party. (You heard it at mainepolitics.net first!)

The Chair is a critical role for the Party in terms of fundraising, campaign development, candidate recruitment, and above all, a vision for the beleaguered Democrats. One high-ranking Democratic Party official told me that the Party is still haunted by the friction created among leaders during the Obama vs. Hillary primaries. Throw on top of that the absolute shellacking the Democrats took in November and you have a Party in modest disrepair, at best.

The new Chair will likely need to address the fallout created by the anti-Cutler mailers the Party sent out during the last election, mailers that some found offensive and/or xenophobic. I was volunteering my time during the final days of the campaign at the Dem Party HQ in Augusta and was tasked with answering the phone the day the mailers started to hit mailboxes. It wasn’t a pleasant assignment. Read more »

Dem Convention Photos

Some great photos accompany Rebekah Metzler's Sun Journal story on yesterday's Democratic convention:

Maine Dems Preview Attacks on Republicans

In an interesting preview of how they might go after each of the Republican candidates should they win the nomination, the Maine Democratic Party today released a list of proposed questions ahead of the GOP debate on Friday that go straight to their individual weaknesses.


You have decried the size of Government, yet you have spent almost your entire adult career on government payroll. How do you justify this apparent contradiction?


On the radio show The Watchman, you said you were in favor of rolling back the Maine Human Rights Act which received voter support in 2005. Is this true or was it simply a talking point for a conservative audience?


After living full time only 6 years in Maine, in Cumberland Foreside; how can you understand the struggles that Mainers across the state are facing?


You have called Welfare "economic slavery", do you stand by this assertion or do you think it might be offensive hyperbole?


You have consistently voted to raise taxes, even on Social Security benefits. How can your campaign platform decry high taxes?


It is public knowledge that while you were at the helm of American Skiing Company the business was overleveraged and required a bailout from an investment firm, yet in your recent TV ad you film yourself in front of the mountain and tout it as a success. How do you explain this inconsistency?


Your experience is from your time as a Wall Street banker during the largest economic decline in 80 years, yet you campaign on fiscal responsibility. How do you reconcile this inconsistency?

Maine Democrats Head to Georgia, Minnesota

The Democratic Party sent an email release yesterday about party and campaign workers heading to Georgia to help with the run-off election and to Minnesota to assist the Al Franken campaign, which is locked in a tight recount with incumbent Republican Norm Coleman. These two contests, along with the recount in Alaska, will decide the final partisan make-up of the US Senate and could give Democrats a 59 or (less likely) 60-seat majority.

Knutson said there was further evidence this week of the caliber of staff that Chandler recruited. Approximately a 10 members of his staff, including field director Mark Henson, were tapped by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) to help with the Minnesota recount between Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN) and Democratic challenger Al Franken. The crew left Wednesday on the 24-hour drive to Minneapolis-St. Paul.

In addition, the party's IT Director, Reid DeWolfe, joined two Tom Allen for Senate staffers in Georgia, where they will hold leadership positions in the Georgia Senatorial run-off election between Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss and Democratic challenger Jim Martin. Georgia law calls for a run-off when no candidate earns a 50 percent majority.

"The fact these staffers were tapped to work on the run-off and recount campaigns that are so important to determining the leadership that President Obama will have in the Senate speaks volumes about the talent on Tom Allen's campaign and at the Maine Democratic Party," Knutson said.

Adorable Puppies for Simpson

www.iwasaluckyone.com is a new website created by the Maine Democratic Party offering a look at Senator Snowe-Mello's record on animal welfare. It may also be the first time an adorable puppy has been used in an attack ad.

I found the site through traffic from an outgoing link to my post on Snowe-Mello's disagreement with the Sun Journal about her actions opposing the rescue effort at a Buxton puppy mill. It's not clear how the party intends to promote the site in District 15.

A $13,000 Phrase

Looks like the District 15 state senate race alone could keep me busy until the election. The latest from the race is more info on the independent expenditure from the Maine Democratic Party that led to $13,000 in matching funds being transferred to the campaign of Republican incumbent Lois Snowe-Mello and a potential fine being levied against the MDP.

It turns out the expenditure in question was for two mailers meant to be "issue advocacy". The Maine Clean Elections Act states that issue advocacy (which doesn't trigger matching funds) can mention a candidate but not specifically promote their candidacy. According to the MDP's lawyer, the vendor they hired altered the designs without informing the party and included the phrase "Deb Simpson for State Senate." This changed the mailers into "express advocacy," necessitating an immediate report to the ethics commission and a $13,000 disbursement to Simpson's opponent.

Here's one of the proofs the MDP says they signed off on:

And here's the version that was sent (change highlighted in red):

The party is contesting the fine levied against them based on their lack of knowledge of the designer's mistake until after the mailers were sent. Their case will be heard on Monday.

Despite the costly mistake, the party is still using the Louisiana-based vendor for other expenditures.

Democrats Focus on Women

As Hillary Clinton took the stage at the Democratic Convention last night, Maine women were phone banking in Portland. WMTW reports:

Tom Allen's campaign also chose today to launch "Women for Tom Allen".

Women from across the state have expressed their support for Allen by signing up online for the group, which has had events in Portland, Biddeford, Bar Harbor and Bangor and plans to have two more in Augusta and Auburn.

Maine Senate President Beth Edmonds and Maine Senate Majority Leader Libby Mitchell, strong advocates for women and families in Maine's legislature, are co-chairs of Women for Tom Allen.

"Tom Allen's record in Washington demonstrates his commitment to issues that affect Maine women and families," Senator Edmonds said. "Tom introduced the Middle Class Opportunity Act to provide tax credits for higher education, families with children, and families with ailing or elderly family members."

Tom Allen Wants To Buy You Dinner

Congressman Allen is continuing to host a series of community suppers throughout the state. The next four are in southern Maine.

SANFORD Community Supper
Tuesday, August 5th, 5:30pm - 7:00pm
Nasson Community Center
457 Main Street
RSVP: Adam at alovell@mainedems.org or 324-9003

BATH Community Supper
Wednesday, August 6th from 6:00pm - 7:30pm
Midcoast Community Action Building
34 Wing Farm Parkway
RSVP: Kim at kballard@mainedems.org or 386-0108

SACO Community Supper
Thursday, August 7th from 5:00pm - 6:30pm
Unitarian Universalist Church
60 School Street
RSVP: Marc at mmalon@mainedems.org or 284-6071

WINDHAM Community Supper
Friday, August 8th from 5:30pm - 7:00pm
Windham Veterans Cente
35 Veterans Memorial Drive
RSVP: Jessica at jsaulnier@mainedems.org or 699-5901

The Allen campaign will also be helping the Maine Democratic Party open three new offices in Rumford, Farmington and Sanford, bringing the total up to 28 across the state.

Rumford: This Saturday, August 2nd at 2:00 p.m. The office is located at 232 Route 108. Special Guest: Rep. Tom Allen!

Farmington: This Saturday, August 2nd at 12:30 p.m. at the Old Theater on Broadway. Special Guest: Diana Allen!

Sanford: Tuesday, August 5th from 3-5 p.m., we’ll hold the Grand Opening Celebration for the Sanford Office, located at 882 Main Street. Special Guest: Rep. Tom Allen!

Hoffman Supporters Removed from Committee

Two members of the Maine Democratic Executive Committee who were actively working against the Democratic senate nominee were voted out of their posts.

Makes perfect sense to me.