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Friday, March 11, 2016

Huge turnout at the local caucuses brings increased excitement - By Michelle Libby

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This past weekend, the National political scene came to Maine as republicans and democrats turned out in record numbers to voice their opinions and cast their choice for nominee for President of the United States. Republican caucuses were held on Saturday and democratic caucuses were held on Sunday. The Republican State Committee grouped the caucuses into 11 regions, whereas the democrats met by town. Windham Middle School was the location for the republican caucus for Windham, Raymond, Standish, Casco, Sebago, Harrison, Naples, Gray, Bridgton, Baldwin and Frye Island. 
 
“People are mad,” said Peter Dunn of Raymond. “I’m 78 years old and I’ve never been to a caucus before.” 

Others were also attending caucuses for the first time. Velma Bowes from Gray is 79 years old and she’d never been. Craig Doering from Windham was nominated as a delegate. “My impression is that there is a huge turnout,” he said. The Windham voters filled a classroom on Saturday to hear local legislators discuss needs for the Republican Party both locally and on the state level.

One woman arrived at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday and there were already a lot of people waiting. “This is a fantastic turnout,” she added.

Ryan Crowell holds his daughter Lucy at the democratic caucus in Raymond on Sunday. They are a Hillary family.



“It’s bringing us all out. And we’re Trump all the way,” said Louise Dunn from Raymond. 

Representative Patrick Corey, from District 24, was at the caucus to announce his run for reelection. He recalls that in 2012, there was a Presidential preference poll where people put their vote into a container. “We didn’t have this opportunity in 2012,” he said. Corey had this to say about working with other elected officials. “It’s not about you. It’s about your community. Whoever gets elected, that delegation has to work together.” 

The caucuses gave voters not only a chance to vote for their favorite candidate, but to hear other opinions on why they were voting for certain people. It was the first time it was tried this way.
In 2012, 5,585 voters cast their vote for a republican presidential candidate. This year 18,650 voted. Cruz won the regional vote and the State of Maine with 45.84 percent of the votes. Trump was second with 32.55 percent of the votes.

Speakers from all four republican candidates attempted to entice the votes to choose their candidates and representatives from each candidate were on hand to answer questions and hand out bumper stickers and signs. 

“This is a slice of American. Kids, seniors, adults all came out. It’s personalized,” said Rep. Mike McClellan. “Isn’t that why most of us are here? People are angry, frustrated. He’s telling them what they want to hear,” said Keith Minton from Raymond who is campaigning for Cruz. 

Close to 800 people voted in Windham. 

On Sunday, the democrats met in their individual towns to support Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton.
“This is the first step to vote for electing a democrat for President,” said Janis Cummings, who opened the caucus in Raymond. In 2012, seven people came to the democratic caucus in Raymond, this year there were 100. 

Jess Fay, who is running for the District 66 seat, and State Senator Bill Diamond both spoke to encourage the crowd. “The turnout has been unbelievable. That’s all good news for us,” said Diamond.  In Portland, the caucus had to be moved outside due to the large numbers and many people stood in line for hours. 

Unlike the republican caucus, the democrats asked their voters to stand on one side of the gym or the other at the Raymond Elementary School, depending on who they wanted to vote for. The undecided voters stood in the middle until they made their decision. 

“They [Clinton and Sanders] need each other,” said Bill Hayman. “The most important thing is getting out the vote.”

One man who was planning to vote for Sanders said, “Hillary is still playing the same game the way it’s always been played.” 

Another pointed out that “Bernie is more likable than Obama was at this point in the race.”
The final tally in Raymond was Sanders 87 to Clinton 47. 

“I’m psyched,” said Jen Bruder. “I didn’t realize the importance of it until I found someone I’m passionate about. [Sanders] doesn’t owe anybody any favors, except for us.” 

Sanders won the democratic vote in Maine. The process is now under evaluation in Augusta to see if caucuses are the best way to hold primaries in Maine.


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