Caucus Round-up: Many GOP caucus-goers first timers

 DENNIS DEMPSEY, of Gray, sports several political pins at the Republican caucus on Saturday. “I am here to show support, volunteer my service and to get a big yard sign,” Dempsey said. (De Busk Photo) Bridgton Democratic Committee caucus results Bernie Sanders: Seven delegates to attend Maine Democratic Convention  Hillary Clinton: Four delegates to attend Maine Democratic Convention     By Dawn De Busk Staff Writer So many Bridgton residents showed up to participate in the Democratic caucus that it became apparent some fresh air needed to circulate through the packed room, according to Caucus Convener Linda England.  “We were jammed in the room. There was so much body heat in one room that we had to open the windows,” England said. Bernie Sanders was the hot ticket during Maine’s caucuses — garnering about two-thirds of the votes, compared to Hillary Clinton.  “Bernie Sanders absolutely overwhelmingly won,” England said.  The Bridgton caucus resulted in giving seven delegates to Sanders, while Clinton received four delegates. Those people will go to the Maine Democratic Convention in Portland this spring.  As was the case statewide, the local Democratic caucus experienced an impressive turnout.  “It was the largest turnout that Bridgton ever had,” said England, who served as chairman of the Bridgton Democratic Committee until local posts changed over at Sunday’s caucus.  Bridgton’s Democratic caucus kicked off at 1 p.m. in the downstairs meeting room of the Municipal Complex. It took more than an hour — with volunteers working full-steam — to register everyone who was eligible to participate in the caucus, she said. Registration took a long time regionwide. With absentee votes included, the total number of people was slightly less than 200.   Big turnouts and long waits aren’t all bad news.  “It takes so long when you have this much enthusiasm,” England said.   The turnout represented people from all walks of life and a wide spectrum of ages.  “It was a meeting of families: single parents, married parents, and aging parents. We had people in wheelchairs and people using walkers. We had people who are going to vote for the first time in November — with a spark in their eyes and enthusiasm to take part in the process of a democratic republic,” she said. England summarized the comments of speakers who favored Sanders.  “People said that he understands the needs of our country, of the average citizen. It’s all about meeting the needs of an entire population in all areas,” she said, listing health care, creating more jobs, keeping businesses from relocating to other countries because of better tax breaks as some of the issues people mentioned.  When people spoke about Sanders, they said “he has never wavered in his desire to meet the needs of the people, or of the country. He has never been available for sale,” she said. “Extraordinary ethics or having integrity is something else I heard a lot” about Sanders, she said.

DENNIS DEMPSEY, of Gray, sports several political pins at the Republican caucus on Saturday. “I am here to show support, volunteer my service and to get a big yard sign,” Dempsey said. (De Busk Photo)
Bridgton Democratic Committee caucus results
Bernie Sanders: Seven delegates to attend Maine Democratic Convention
Hillary Clinton: Four delegates to attend Maine Democratic Convention
By Dawn De Busk
Staff Writer
So many Bridgton residents showed up to participate in the Democratic caucus that it became apparent some fresh air needed to circulate through the packed room, according to Caucus Convener Linda England.
“We were jammed in the room. There was so much body heat in one room that we had to open the windows,” England said.
Bernie Sanders was the hot ticket during Maine’s caucuses — garnering about two-thirds of the votes, compared to Hillary Clinton.
“Bernie Sanders absolutely overwhelmingly won,” England said.
The Bridgton caucus resulted in giving seven delegates to Sanders, while Clinton received four delegates. Those people will go to the Maine Democratic Convention in Portland this spring.
As was the case statewide, the local Democratic caucus experienced an impressive turnout.
“It was the largest turnout that Bridgton ever had,” said England, who served as chairman of the Bridgton Democratic Committee until local posts changed over at Sunday’s caucus.
Bridgton’s Democratic caucus kicked off at 1 p.m. in the downstairs meeting room of the Municipal Complex. It took more than an hour — with volunteers working full-steam — to register everyone who was eligible to participate in the caucus, she said. Registration took a long time regionwide. With absentee votes included, the total number of people was slightly less than 200.
Big turnouts and long waits aren’t all bad news.
“It takes so long when you have this much enthusiasm,” England said.
The turnout represented people from all walks of life and a wide spectrum of ages.
“It was a meeting of families: single parents, married parents, and aging parents. We had people in wheelchairs and people using walkers. We had people who are going to vote for the first time in November — with a spark in their eyes and enthusiasm to take part in the process of a democratic republic,” she said.
England summarized the comments of speakers who favored Sanders.
“People said that he understands the needs of our country, of the average citizen. It’s all about meeting the needs of an entire population in all areas,” she said, listing health care, creating more jobs, keeping businesses from relocating to other countries because of better tax breaks as some of the issues people mentioned.
When people spoke about Sanders, they said “he has never wavered in his desire to meet the needs of the people, or of the country. He has never been available for sale,” she said.
“Extraordinary ethics or having integrity is something else I heard a lot” about Sanders, she said.

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

WINDHAM — By the time the Maine Republican caucus took place, the number of potential presidential candidates had been downsized from 11 to four.

By Saturday evening when most of the votes had been tallied, it was apparent that slightly more Mainers favored Ted Cruz (45.9%) over Donald Trump. (32.6%) as the next Republican presidential candidate. Those numbers are from the Associated Press.

During a Saturday morning in southern Maine, lines of people stood outside the Windham Middle School, the caucus location for about a dozen towns. Those lines waxed and waned in the hallways of the school building. The Maine Republican caucus was held there for the towns of Bridgton, Casco, Naples, Harrison, Sebago, Standish, Windham and Raymond as well as Gray and New Gloucester.

Bridgton residents Mike and Faye Daley were open-minded to gathering more information as they listened to the people who took the podium to speak on the behalf of the four candidates. The couple also mulled around the room, engaging in conversations with fellow Republican Party members.

“This caucus, this presidential election, yes, there is hopefulness. We have a concern for integrity. We are trying to determine which candidate has the most integrity,” he said.

His wife Faye Daley said she wanted to be part of the process.

“I am so sick of the infighting. When I watch the candidates on TV, I end up going to bed and giving up on the debates,” Faye said.

Mike said he and his wife have been members of the local Rotary club; and, they apply the principals of Rotarians to their political decisions. The first test is whether or not the candidate acts on issues that will benefit the greatest number of Americans, he said.

“All of the representatives (proxies for the presidential nominees for the GOP ticket) spoke well and clearly, allowing all the attendees to make rational votes,” he said.

This was not the couple’s first caucus.

Mike Daley commented on the enthusiastic turnout at this regional Caucus location.

“We had record numbers compared to past years,” he said.

“People drove all the way here. It represents a great deal of interest,” he said.

“There is a good feeling at the caucus. There are smiles. There is a faith in democracy — it will work from the ground up,” he said.

By 10 a.m. on Saturday, 26 people wrapped up the caucus business for the Town of Harrison.

Harold Hepburn III, a resident of Harrison, talked about the turnout and the group’s concerns.

“We had a fantastic turnout. It was an exceptional turnout,” Hepburn said.

“Twenty-six people drove more than an hour. We all feel that the turnout is good,” he said.

“There are problems in the federal government. We are sick and tired and want changes,” he said.

“Everyone is unified in a nonpolitician running our country, compared to the guys who give lip service and do nothing,” Hepburn said.

“Two things came up in the Harrison Caucus. People would like the caucus site to return back to the towns,” he said.

“The majority of us would like to see this state become a primary state,” he said.

He added that there were some mumblings that the caucus versus primaries question might be one addressed in Augusta.

One of the drawbacks of a caucus is that someone who feels strongly about one of the presidential nominees “can pack the caucus with their friends” who belong to the Republican Party, he said.

Additionally, a primary might bring out more voters, Hepburn said, adding, “If 26 people showed up and that was a great turn out. How about another 600 people?”

“I care about the majority of the people coming out,” he said.

For residents of Cumberland County, there were a couple of sites for Saturday’s caucus. One woman had spent the morning at the caucus in the Town of Cumberland before bringing her mother, a resident of Gray, to the caucus in Windham. The lines were even longer there, but participating in the caucus was worth the wait, she said.

Shortly after noon, a small group of Sebago residents were discussing the best way to cast their caucus vote and filling out forms to register as delegates for their town.

Bob DeGrishe, of Standish, had finished the caucus for his town and had joined his friends from Sebago.

“This was my first caucus. I came here because I needed more input than what I hear on Fox news — you’ve probably heard of that comedy show,” DeGrishe said.

“I wanted more personal discussions. I was rather disappointed. I had preconceived notions and I was rather disappointed,” he said.

Sherry Miller, of Sebago, thought she might learn something to change her mind about who would be the best choice.

“This is my first time going to caucus. I wanted to see how the process worked. I’ve been immersed in political news. So, I knew who I was going to vote for,” Miller said.

“I was settled during the South Carolina debates when I heard John Kasich speak. But, I came here open-minded. I wanted to hear people talk,” Miller said.

Miller said she was somewhat disappointed that there wasn’t more discussion or different opinions expressed than what she has already heard.

Miller did decide to register as a delegate for her town. The Town of Sebago still has five openings for delegates, the people who will attend the Maine Republican Convention in Bangor in late April, she said.

Meanwhile, DeGrishe also signed up as a delegate for the Town of Standish.

“Today, I am not voting for a winner, I am voting with my heart,” he said.

“If the man I voted for is not elected, I’ll still go and support the party,” he said.

Casco Democratic caucus mirrors state results

Results of Town of Casco Democratic caucus

Bernie Sanders: 76 votes; Five delegates to go to Maine Democratic Convention

Hillary Clinton: 23 votes; Two delegates to go to Maine Democratic Convention

Undecided: 2 votes

 CASCO — One hundred and one was the magic number.

“101 — Just like the Dalmatians. That’s how many people showed up,” Democratic Caucus Convener Peg Dilley said.

As a longtime member of the Democratic Party, Dilley said past participation has been light.

“Last Caucus, only four people came to it. The time before that, it was 15,” she said.

The caucus was an exciting experience because of the big turnout, which permitted many residents to express their political opinions and to endorse a candidate in a friendly, nondisparaging environment, she said.

When people were asked to go to different sides of the room to show support for one of the two nominees, the support for Bernie Sanders became visual, she said.

The Democratic caucus for the Town of Casco was held at the Casco Community Center on Sunday. The start time was slated for 1 p.m., but residents showed up well beforehand.

“People started coming in the doors at noon, and they kept coming,” Dilley said.

“It took about two hours, which is what we had planned,” she said.

Sixteen Casco residents registered for the first time as party members. Most did so because they wanted to support Sanders.

“We got a few new people who were registering because of Bernie,” Dilley said.

When the tallying was complete, Casco’s percentages reflected the State of Maine as a whole.

In Casco, Sanders got a total of 76 votes including seven absentee votes; and Hillary Clinton received a total of 23 votes, which coincidentally included seven absentee votes, according to Dilley. Also, two people cast their vote as undecided, she said.

Out of the seven delegates allotted to Casco, Bernie received five and Clinton got two, she said.

After this weekend’s caucuses, people who belong to both the Democratic and the Republican parties began to question whether Maine would be better served if it became a primary state, instead of a caucus state. The major complaints were long waits to get registered and that there was a lot of paperwork involved compared to ballot-style voting.

Dilley said there are many benefits to the caucus format.

“The caucus is like an old-fashioned town meeting. The caucus has the advantage that you get to meet your neighbor and know who belongs to the Democratic Party,” she said.

Another advantage is that “you get to speak up and change other people’s minds,” she said.

For example, out of three undecided voters, one undecided joined the Bernie camp — which was a disappointment to the Hillary supporters, Dilley said.

“There were a lot of young people who showed up, which was wonderful. There were a lot of people who had never went to a caucus and didn’t know what it was,” she said, adding it was a learning process for many adults.

As Caucus Convener, Dilley allowed one person to speak in support of Clinton and then one individual who backed Sanders was given the floor.

“Most of the people who wanted Hillary were older and had been involved in politics for a while. A lot of people have been waiting for a woman president for a long time. They’ve seen what she has done for women and for families over the years,” Dilley said.

“A lot of the Bernie people were brand new. They were giving their first-time speeches. For some people, it was their first opportunity to be a little political,” she said.

“For young parents, it is education and health care that is driving force for supporting Bernie,” she said.

Fast forwarding to the National Democratic Convention, Dilley stressed the unification of the party — something discussed by residents on Sunday.

“The basic concern of Democratic Party members is that if one or the other nominee doesn’t make it, will everyone in the party support the Democratic nominee when they vote at the polls in November,” she said.

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