LePage floats list of who Maine should send to GOP national convention

Good morning from Augusta, but Bangor will be Maine’s political center this weekend.

The Maine Republican Party begins its state convention there on Friday and on Saturday, it’ll pick the delegates who will help decide the party’s presidential nominee in July at what may be the first contested national convention since 1976.

In Maine, the 2016 convention is expected to be nothing like the 2012 debacle that saw backers of insurgent White House hopeful Ron Paul take over the state convention only to have delegates later split between him and Mitt Romney, who won Maine’s popular vote and the nomination.

That’s mainly because Maine Republicans altered caucus rules to bind delegates to the results of a March nominating caucus, where Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas won 12 of 23 delegates, billionaire front-runner Donald Trump won nine and Ohio Gov. John Kasich won two.

It doesn’t mean, however, that there won’t be wrangling. Why?

Trump is the only candidate who can win the nomination outright before the national convention, but he’s not on track to do so. If he doesn’t, the nomination will be decided on the convention floor. There, if nobody wins on a first ballot, delegates can vote for any candidate. That’s what campaigns are girding for now.

In Maine, roughly 200 people are running to be national convention delegates to be elected on Saturday. But now, Cruz supporters say that insiders are mulling a proposed slate of delegates from Gov. Paul LePage, a Trump supporter who is running to be a delegate alongside his wife, Ann LePage.

Earl Bierman, a Cruz delegate candidate and chief of staff to Maine House Republicans, said his camp has discussed a “unity slate” with LePage’s team to be apportioned according to the March nominating caucuses.

Rep. Joel Stetkis, R-Canaan, another Cruz supporter, called LePage’s proposed slate “an option,” expecting “a fairly coordinated effort to inform the convention as to who supports whom.”

Bierman said he expects “no attempt at taking over the convention,” but he said LePage plays “brass-knuckle politics,” so many are waiting to see how Saturday plays out.

“We’re of the same party and during the primary season, you duke it over, but when it’s over, you kind of hold hands at the end,” he said. “We’re trying to keep things as civil as possible.”

Details are unclear, however: LePage’s political adviser, Brent Littlefield, didn’t return messages seeking comment. Peter Steele, a spokesman for LePage’s office who’s running to be a delegate, said he’s on the list for “staffing purposes” should LePage be a delegate to the national convention.

It could be a bid to help Trump on any second ballot, so it’s something to watch as Saturday gets closer. — Michael Shepherd

LePage vetoes Narcan prescription bill

On Wednesday, LePage vetoed a bill that would allow pharmacies to dispense a drug that can reverse potentially fatal opiate overdoses, saying it “does not truly save lives; it merely extends them until the next overdose.”

That bill, sponsored by Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon, would add Maine to a list of about a dozen other states that would allow naloxone — branded as Narcan — to be sold over the counter. Lawmakers will consider overriding LePage’s veto later this month.

“If we have the chance to save even one life, we must seize it,” Gideon said in a statement. “Putting this proven life-saving medication into more hands will save lives and spare families the unthinkable loss of a loved one to a preventable overdose.” — Michael Shepherd

Reading list

Quick hits

  • The Boston Globe floated U.S. Sen. Susan Collins as a potential long-shot vice presidential pick for Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, with an operative saying the Maine Republican could help her appeal to suburban women. It’s hard to see Clinton reaching outside her party or Collins accepting, but the two are friendly: Clinton hosted a dinner party for Collins’ engagement in 2012.
  • After U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a 2nd District Republican, came out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Wednesday, his Democratic opponent in 2016, Emily Cain, who also opposes it, issued a statement saying he should have taken a position sooner and “decided it politically benefited his campaign to finally take a side.” — Michael Shepherd
Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.