The council chambers in Orono were filled to capacity Sunday afternoon as 185 members of the Democratic party met and participated in a caucus, with supporters of candidate John Kerry coming out on top.
Following the presentations in support of the candidates, the participants broke into groups based on who they wished to vote for. Based on the number of people in attendance, it was determined that each candidate would get one delegate and one alternate for approximately every 7.4 people who supported him. The delegates chosen will go to the state convention in Portland in May.
As voters split up into groups and numbers started filtering back to the caucus chair, Kerry supporters outnumbered the other candidates. With 89 people in favor of Kerry, the group decided on 10 delegates to go to Portland in May. Howard Dean came in a close second with 70 votes and seven delegates, followed by Dennis Kucinich with 45 votes and five delegates, Wesley Clark with nine votes and one delegate, and both John Edwards and those uncommitted voters with seven supporters and one delegate each. No voters turned out in support of Rev. Al Sharpton.
Dean supporters quickly moved in on the uncommitted voters, however, and soon had persuaded four of them to vote for Dean.
Maine held caucuses like the one in Orono all over the state on Sunday instead of holding a presidential primary. The results of the caucuses will help select the Democratic presidential nominee from Maine for 2004.
Presentations by candidate supporters, hoping to sway undecided voters, preceded the evening caucus vote.
“The most important thing today is to find a candidate for the present occupant of the White House,” state Senate District 30 candidate George Jacobson told the crowd. “This is so exciting to see so many Democrats here today because it means we have a good chance.”
“[Dean] isn’t promising the world to us – he understands there are priorities in this nation,” said Jim Martin, a local resident who has worked for Howard Dean’s campaign for several months.
Martin told the crowd he sees three clear reasons why Dean would make the strongest presidential candidate. First, Martin said, Dean is a former governor and has the proven experience and background, and second, he is leader on principle.
“He’s taken some very serious stances that have not been popular [like the civil union bill in Vermont], and yet he was still re-elected twice after that,” Martin said.
Third, Martin said, is that Dean is responsible for re-energizing the Democratic Party.
“Look at these turnouts today. Look at turnouts all over the country,” Martin said. “I personally have helped several Republicans unenroll for this campaign.”
Peter Mallard, a speaker on behalf of Dennis Kucinich’s campaign, said that while beating current President George Bush should be the primary concern of the Democratic Party, voters should vote for Kucinich based on principle.
“I’m asking you to stand up for principle,” Mallard said. “If you believe in the issues I do, I believe you’ll be forced to support Kucinich.”
Mallard touched on several of Kucinich’s campaign issues, such as universal health care, a woman’s right to choose, getting the United States out of Iraq and bringing the United Nations in, and the fact that Kucinich is the only candidate to have voted against the Patriot Act.
“There’s plenty of time to swallow hard and support the candidate to beat George Bush,” Mallard said. “Today it’s time to support Kucinich.”
One man expressed support for all of the Democratic candidates.
“I feel an enormous sense of gratitude to the other candidates in this process,” a representative supporting John Kerry said. “As far as I’m concerned, I’m here with hands out to all the candidates and if your candidate is the one chosen, I’ll be right out there with you.”
“[Kerry's] stance on the issues is, in my opinion, a very good one,” the representative said. “I think people are supporting John Kerry because when you get in front of him and talk to him, he does have something strong to say.”
While Mallard asked voters to vote on principle, Jim Wagner, speaking on behalf of Wesley Clark’s campaign, had a slightly different message.
“I have to speak for pragmatism before principle,” he told the crowd, saying that Clark’s proven foreign affairs capability would be a step up from Bush’s “campaign of terror and fear and flag waving.”
“Don’t skip over him as an insignificant candidate,” Wagner warned the crowd. “I think he’s a very capable one.”
Virginia and Tennessee will hold primaries this Tuesday, with more than 150 delegates dependent on the results.
Maine Caucus 2004 Results: