- Associated Press - Saturday, May 31, 2014

BANGOR, Maine (AP) - Maine must reject the divisiveness of the past and restore public confidence in the leadership of Augusta, Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud told party activists Saturday as he looks to topple Gov. Paul LePage this fall.

In a more than 20-minute speech at the Democratic convention in Bangor, Michaud pledged to unite Republicans and Democrats behind the common goal of charting a new path forward for the state.

“Now don’t get me wrong: We’re not going to stop disagreeing,” said Michaud, who’s in a three-person race with the Republican governor and independent candidate Eliot Cutler.

“We’re not going to give up our values we hold near and dear. But we can stop the divisiveness. We can stop the inflammatory rhetoric … We can do better and we can be better.”

Michaud said that he chose not to deliver a “barn-burning speech” highlighting the attacks and the examples of mismanagement of LePage - “even though there have been many of them” - but to instead focus on the future.

He again vowed to introduce a bill on his first day in office to expand Medicaid to roughly 70,000 Mainers under the federal health care law, a measure LePage staunchly opposes and has vetoed five times. He also said he would work to raise the minimum wage and close the wage gap for women if elected in November.

“Our Maine is a place where we want to be and where there is opportunity for all … but our Maine isn’t the Maine that Gov. LePage sees,” he said. “And it is my goal to unite this state and take our Maine back.”

While much of the convention Saturday focused on the need to defeat LePage, Democrats also looked to rally support for their candidates seeking to fill the 2nd Congressional District seat, which is being left vacant by Michaud’s decision to run for governor.

The speeches of the two squaring off in the June 10 primary for the seat showed the vastly different styles of a consensus builder and a candidate who pledges he will be a fighter in Washington.

Emily Cain, a state senator who touts her work negotiating budgets in Augusta, emphasized the need to send someone to Congress who can work across the aisle and deliver results.

“In today’s political environment, being a fighter is simply not enough,” she said.

Meanwhile, Troy Jackson, a state senator and logger from Allagash, vowed to be an advocate for blue-collar Mainers and not to back down to pressure from the GOP.

“When the tea party goes after the powerless, I will be their power. When the Congress forgets the words of the middle class, I will be their voice,” he said.

Earlier Saturday, convention-goers rallied around Republican Sen. Susan Collins’ challenger, Shenna Bellows, who said she would fight to increase the minimum wage and support renewable energy policies if Mainers send her to Washington. They also heard from R.T. Rybak, the former mayor of Minneapolis and a Democratic National Committee vice chairman.

David Sorensen, a spokesman for Maine’s Republican Party, dismissed Democrats’ claim that they are the party of the future and said Democrats remain committed to policies that have failed the state for the past 40 years.

Democrats also adopted a party platform that supports the adoption of a universal, single-payer health care system and opposes right-to-work laws. They amended it Friday to include support for legalizing marijuana for recreational use for those over the age of 21.


Follow Alanna Durkin on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/aedurkin

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