|By Ramona du Houx
The Maine Democratic Convention succeeded in energizing Democrats
from all areas of the state. Over 1,000 participants convened at the Augusta Civic Centre
for two days. The proceedings were chaired with enthusiasm, decorum, and wit by Speaker of
the House John Richardson.
The convention was a huge community
gathering of like-minded people expressing themselves freely, making plans for Democratic
victories and voicing their concerns and hopes.
newest fan, Kayla Boucher
Ed Democracy with his
daughter Sophia talks with Governor Baldacci.
"The Democratic Party is a party of
the people," said Ed Democracy. "I believe that the Democratic Party is the best
existing network for spreading real change."
The majority of attendees were volunteers
making a commitment to their state. Maine ranks as the second highest New England state
for volunteerism, just behind Vermont, according to "Volunteering in America: State
Trends and Rankings," a study recently released by the Corporation for National and
Generations of Democrats
Rep. Elaine Makes, and her family
Governor Baldacci walks up to the podium with his son, Jack.
The Legislatures Bryant brothers with candidate for Waterville,
Rep. Jill Conover
Many came for the speeches.
Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin was the
keynote speaker. Feingold said he intends to help begin a dialogue about how we move
forward as a country united by the values we share and the challenges we face together. He
has started the Progressive Patriots Fund, a PAC dedicated to promoting a reform agenda.
He told the attentive audience that
Democrats must "express bold ideas boldly" to win broad public support.
"President Bush has shown disrespect
for the law of this nation and the Constitution," said Feingold, describing when the
president wiretapped American citizens and then deliberately misled the American people
about the existence and scope of his secret program.
Sen. Feingold told Democrats that we
need to be vigilant and fight back when an injustice occurs at any level.
"If we do not censure, the
administration will succeed in pushing us away any time the president gets caught with one
of these abuses of power," said Feingold referring to his censure resolution.
He encouraged Democrats to continue to
stand up for what they believe. "To show strength not weakness," and
repeated Congressman Allens call for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq by the end
of the year.
Congressmen Tom Allen
Congressmen Tom Allen and Mike
Michauds speeches highlighted the problems the state, nation, and the world have
faced because of the Bush Administration. They clearly stated that funds for programs that
help Maine had been cut back at the federal level, forcing the state to make up for the
They criticized Bush for doing nothing
about the outsourcing of jobs, for getting us into the war, and stealing from the poor to
give to the rich, and they praised the governor for creating the Community College System,
and Dirigo Health.
They highlighted how the president gave a
tax cut to the wealthiest Americans, but continually hurts and endangers citizens in need.
The presidents focus is to help corporate America, they said, citing how
pharmaceutical companies have profited from the federal governments Medicare D
program, while seniors have suffered, and how oil companies are making record profits off
Congressmen Mike Michaud
These themes were carried further by
Governor Baldaccis speech.
"When I entered the Blaine House,
coming out of the recession, we had a $1.2 billion budget deficit, an empty Rainy Day
Fund, skyrocketing health-care costs, and Maine workers losing their health-care coverage.
"President Bush inherited President
Clintons budget surplus and the problem of a massive SURPLUS.
"But we neednt have worried.
President Bush put the kibosh on that problem right away, with a massive
temporary tax cut that gave us a massive $300 billion-plus deficit the
following year. Another mission accomplished," said the governor to applause.
He then enumerated accomplishments of his
"In the past three years, we balanced
the budget; we erased that billion-dollar deficit without raising any broad-based
sales or income tax. Weve refilled the Rainy Day Fund, from zero to $100 million,
and reduced our short-term borrowing by over 80 percent.
"So whats the story in
Washington? At the federal level, our children have inherited an $8 trillion debt ...
"Here in Maine we moved ahead to
create good paying jobs with benefits and grow our economy. We established Pine Tree Zones
that have created thousands of jobs. We created incentives to broaden economic activity to
"And, we increased R & D
investment and strategically invested in new and emerging technologies, as well as ones
that add value to our natural resources:
Jackson Labs in Bar Harbor
will be adding several hundred new jobs over the next five years.
Idexx Laboratories in
Westbrook will begin a multimillion-dollar expansion resulting in several hundred new
Cooke Aquaculture has
invested $25 million in Washington County over the last two years and plans to invest
another $60 million in the next two.
In the past three years,
over 1,400 new small businesses were launched, creating nearly 5,000 new jobs in
When discussing health care the governor
stated that he will continue to ensure seniors will be taken care of in Maine for as long
as the faults of federal programs continue.
"We all know health care is a problem
across the country. Its a problem Washington should be dealing with and theyre
not ... [In Maine] we created a health-care initiative so successful it has now been
recognized as one of the top initiatives nationally.
"Today, through Dirigo, more than
15,000 Maine people have affordable, quality health care, and by the end of 2006 this
number will increase by another 7,000," said the governor.
He cited the story of Sanda Tibbits who had
no insurance until Dirigo came along. After a checkup it was discovered that she had
cancer. She received prompt treatment and is doing fine. Without Dirigo she could have
died. "Sandra was able to get the treatment she needed and the hope she lacked. Our
job isnt done until every Mainer can afford the same quality health care," said
Rep. Emily Cain cheers on the governor before his speech to the convention.
"In Maine we understand our states economy depends on the
responsible protection and preservation of our environment and natural resources and the
pursuit of energy independence.
Over the last three years, Maine has led the way toward a cleaner,
Reduced mercury and lead in our air
Launched an initiative to promote
Adopted Green Building Standards for
state buildings, and
Launched solar and wind initiatives
to increase our renewable
Despite the challenges weve faced, Maine is stronger today than
it was three years ago." Governor Baldacci
The governor highlighted the hypocrisy of
Bushs No Child Left Behind Act. "No child left behind equals no teacher left
standing and no child moving ahead." By comparison he said that:
Congressman Allen, Governor Baldacci and
Congressman Michaud unite Democrats at the convention in "SOLIDARITY," as
"In Maine, we made community college a
reality, opening the doors of higher education to thousands of our people. We laid the
groundwork for the largest investment in local public education in Maines history,
providing $280 million more in aid to local schools.
"In the last three years, we have
transformed our higher education system. Over 11,000 students are attending community
colleges; enrollment is up 42 percent and enrollment of students directly from high school
has jumped 50 percent.
"We have reinvested in the classroom,
and now Maine leads the nation in classroom investment and is one of only two states that
puts more than 65 percent of the education budget into classroom instruction.
"We have increased starting
teachers salaries to make sure we attract and retain the best and the brightest
teachers in our schools."
The governor concluded by asking for
the opportunity to continue his plans for everyones future in Maine:
"We owe it to all of Maine to stay
true to the Maine spirit, that guiding passion that lives in every citizen of our state,
setting us apart from the rest of the nation, that makes our states most important
natural resource, not our great forests, our rivers, our lakes, our stunning shoreline,
but our mill workers and shipbuilders, our teachers and students, our nurses and doctors,
our soldiers at home and abroad, our fathers and mothers, our sons and daughters ... our
"It is this spirit that calls on all
of us to ask not, How are we going to succeed? but, How are we going to succeed together?
"Let us not forget that this spirit we
inherited from our forbears endows us not just with industry, but with responsibility;
that we are charged with no burden but the duty of goodwill to our community. We are
strong as one, but stand much stronger together."
"We will grow 25,000 new
jobs in Maine in the next five years.
We will provide universal access to
healthcare for Maine citizens.
We will build educational
opportunity and prepare our state for the 21st century.
We will leave a Maine full of hope
and opportunity for our children and grandchildren."
During the final hours of the
conventions proceedings, the Maine Democratic Party called for a congressional
investigation into allegations that President Bush and his vice president committed
"high crimes and misdemeanors" and is urging Congress "to initiate
impeachment proceedings against them," if warranted.
said Richard Rottkov, who chairs the South Portland Democratic City Committee, in response
to the resolution. "This will send a message that we, as Mainers and as Americans,
are not going to be weak. Were going to be strong."
Rep. Marilyn Canavan and Rep.
Margaret Craven celebrating