PORTLAND – Howard Dean talked up Democrats, talked down Republicans and went door-to-door in a Portland neighborhood Monday to rally Democrats for the coming election.
Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee and a former Vermont governor, and Maine Gov. John Baldacci spoke to about 150 people at a breakfast fundraiser at the Italian Heritage Center before knocking on doors in a heavily Democratic Munjoy Hill neighborhood.
Accompanied by a gaggle of reporters and cameras, Dean and Baldacci stopped at four houses to tout the Democratic message.
One of them was owned by Jon Radtke, a high school teacher who said it’s important for Democrats to conduct a grass-roots effort to remind voters what’s at stake in the Nov. 7 election.
“It was a way to boost spirits as we go into an election,” he said.
Earlier in the morning, Dean told party supporters at a fundraiser that Americans can’t trust Republicans with their money or to defend the country.
The Maine Democratic Party asked for contributions of $29.29 because the event took place 29 days before the election.
While Bush likes to talk tough, Osama bin Laden is still on the loose, North Korea announced it has tested a nuclear device, and Iran has threatened to do the same, Dean said.
“You’ve got to be tough and smart, not just tough and talking tough at election time,” Dean said.
For the governor’s race, Dean called Baldacci’s Republican opponent, Chandler Woodcock, a “clone of George Bush.”
“If you like what George Bush is doing, you ought to vote for Chandler Woodcock,” he said.
Barry Flynn, communications director for the Maine Republican Party, later said that Dean represents a “shrill vitriolic wing” of his party, and that Mainers are capable of determining which issues are important to them and which leaders they want in office.
“Maine people at the end of the day are going to define Chandler Woodcock,” he said.
On Munjoy Hill, Dean and Baldacci visited several homes of people who were notified ahead of time that they might be coming to their door.
At the first house, Gary Akovenko asked what should be done about the war in Iraq. He was pleased to hear Dean say a change of direction is needed and Baldacci call for a comprehensive foreign policy, not one that changes from country to country.
“I wanted to hear about Iraq. I think that’s what’s on people’s minds,” Akovenko said.
While Dean and Baldacci knocked on doors, several neighborhood residents followed behind carrying signs for Ben Meiklejohn, who is running in the district as a Green Independent Party candidate for the Legislature.
Kevin Donoghue, who is registered as a Green, commented about how “staged” the event was.
“I think it’s interesting to see an establishment party pretending to do grass-roots politics,” he said.
Also Monday, U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, was to speak at South Portland High School at a campaign rally and fundraiser for Jean Hay Bright, the Democratic nominee in the U.S. Senate race against Republican incumbent Olympia Snowe.
Former President Clinton is scheduled to speak at two fundraisers on Oct. 16 for the Maine Democratic Party and Baldacci’s re-election campaign. Both events will take place at the University of Southern Maine.