Maine Republicans start to align behind Donald Trump

Good morning from Augusta. Across the country, Republicans are coming to terms with presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump and prominent Maine party members began to rally around him yesterday after his last two challengers, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, dropped out.

For much of the race, Trump had no prominent supporters here except for Gov. Paul LePage, who was reportedly urging Republican governors to stop Trump less than a week before his February endorsement.

That held through the Republican state convention, where Cruz supporters won 19 of Maine’s 23 national convention delegate spots after he won Maine’s March caucuses amid concern from evangelicals over Trump’s conservative bonafides.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and Rep. Bruce Poliquin of the 2nd District, Maine’s next two most prominent Republicans, essentially ignored the presidential race in convention speeches. Poliquin hasn’t backed any candidate and Collins hasn’t endorsed since Jeb Bush left the race in February.

But both hedged toward supporting Trump on Thursday, when Collins told WGAN she’ll be able to support him if he acts more presidential and stops leveling “gratuitous personal insults.” However, she said he’s “perfectly capable” of that and is “smart enough to tailor his approach.”

Poliquin issued a Wednesday statement in which he didn’t endorse Trump. However, he came close, saying he’s the only “major job creator” in the race and is voicing concern over “trade deals which appear to favor foreign countries over our own workers,” a reference to their shared opposition to a trade deal negotiated with Pacific Rim countries.

Other Republicans got more solidly behind Trump on Wednesday, including Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon Falls, who co-chaired Cruz’s campaign in Maine.

Mason said he hoped Trump would “tone down some of the rhetoric,” but “he is our standard-bearer, I’m a Republican and I’m going to work to get him elected.”

“We’re all hoping that he’s tremendously successful this fall,” said Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, who hadn’t endorsed a candidate. “Hopefully he’ll find the right chord to strike with the American people that will add to that success.”

House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, didn’t respond to requests for comment. But the two Republicans looking to replace U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a 1st District Democrat, also got behind Trump in statements.

Ande Smith said his rise shows that Americans are “tired of elitist Washington politicians” and Mark Holbrook said “regardless of who the nominee is,” Republicans “have to support anyone with an R behind their name.”

It’s a sign that Trump’s status as the nominee alone will rally much of the party behind him, even if Republicans are holding their noses behind the scenes. — Michael Shepherd and Christopher Cousins

Ryan to raise money for Poliquin at D.C. event

Poliquin’s getting some A-list help for his 2016 re-election race against Democrat Emily Cain, with House Speaker Paul Ryan appearing as a special guest at a Washington, D.C., fundraiser for the freshman later this month.

The 2014 race between Poliquin and Cain was Maine’s most expensive House race ever, but this year’s race is poised to surpass it, with the candidates having raised approximately $3.3 million combined as of March’s end.

Heavy national involvement has defined the race so far, with Poliquin and Cain enrolled in party programs giving them extra assistance in the district, which was Democratic for 20 years before Poliquin’s election.

Former House Speaker John Boehner helped Poliquin in 2014, so it’s no surprise that Ryan’s involved in a top race this year. Cain had a speaking slot at a California conference of Democratic megadonors last month and was pushed to run again by House Democrats’ campaign arm.

Spokespeople for Poliquin and Ryan confirmed the event on Wednesday, with Poliquin adviser Brent Littlefied saying Cain “has been taking money from California big money liberals” and “it is incumbent upon our campaign” to raise money to take on that “money machine.”

But Poliquin has been the big-money candidate in the race so far, raising more than $2.2 million to Cain’s haul of just under $1.2 million. Of his total, $1 million came from political action or candidate committees. — Michael Shepherd

Correction: A reference in an earlier version of this piece transposed Boehner’s last name for Ryan’s.

Quick hits

Reading list

Best of Maine’s Craigslist

  • He’s not sure if the “Strictly Platonic” section is the right place for this (it’s not), but a man in Portland is looking for “dudes to jam with, dude!” He’s “not very professional, don’t really have pro gear, and I’m kinda rusty,” and his only requirement is that you “must be original and have ideas and not suck.” And “P.s. no hipster trash.”
  • A man was walking out of the Biddeford Hannaford as “the hottest piece of female perfection wearing pink flip flops” passed by him. He went back into the store to compliment her, but he didn’t find her: “Yep that’s right this beauty turned me from a mild mannered shopper to an instant stalker in less then 30 seconds.” Here’s his soundtrack.
  • These are “2 cool gerbils just looking for a good time” — or a new home, because their Portland owners can’t take them to a new apartment. — 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.