Lincoln County voters gave U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders double the support of former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in presidential voting during the Democratic caucus on Sunday, March 6.
Sanders will receive 59 of the county’s delegates to the state convention to 29 for Clinton, according to partial results from the Maine Democratic Party. Delegates to the state convention will select 25 or Maine’s 30 delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. The other five are pre-selected “superdelegates.”
The results from the party did not include individual vote counts or results from Boothbay Harbor, Bremen, and Westport Island, although Sanders reportedly carried those towns handily as well.
Sanders collected more than 64 percent of the vote statewide.
Turnout was high – reportedly record-breaking – throughout the county and the state.
A total of 792 Democrats from nine Lincoln County towns caucused at Great Salt Bay Community School in Damariscotta, with another 249 absentee ballots returned for 1,041 votes, according to Lincoln County Democratic Committee Chairman Jim Torbert.
Torbert, of Whitefield, called the turnout “incredible.”
“I’m delighted,” Torbert said. “We got, I think, a lot of new voters or people who enrolled in the Democratic Party for the first time, and I hope they stick with us … Altogether, it was a great day for Democrats.”
The party distributed the same amount of registration forms as in 2008 plus 10 percent in anticipation of high turnout, according to Torbert. After receiving four times as many absentee ballots as in 2008, another 30-50 percent were ordered. At the end of the day, most of the forms had been used.
Torbert himself cast an absentee ballot for Sanders, while pledging his support to the party’s nominee in the general election.
“They’re both better candidates than anybody I see on the other side,” Torbert said. “I will definitely work hard for either candidate.”
Boothbay, Boothbay Harbor, Bremen, Bristol, Damariscotta, Newcastle, Nobleboro, South Bristol, and Southport caucused at GSB. Sanders had a large and enthusiastic group of supporters at the event.
Frances Bredeau, of Boothbay Harbor, was present with her son and grandson to support Sanders.
“He says everything I believe in,” Bredeau said. “That man has never said anything I couldn’t agree to. I think Hillary is a very qualified candidate, but (Sanders) says everything I believe in.”
Josh Zech and Tamara Hutchison, a husband and wife who live in Newcastle, were also caucusing for Sanders.
“I think it’s time for a change,” said Zech, 38. “I think we’ve had a lot of the same type of people, the same type of politics going on for a long time, and I think we need something different.”
“I feel like (Sanders is) still very independent and I like his socialist views,” Zech said. “I think pretty much everything he says is the way that I would like our country to be.”
“This is the first time I’ve ever come out to caucus for someone and I felt it was really important to come out and caucus for Bernie,” Zech said.
Jean Moon, of Damariscotta, delivered a speech on behalf of Clinton.
“She is prepared as no other current candidate is to be president of the United States,” Moon said. “Her chances of success with Congress are better than most.”
“She has a very strong advantage where relationship-building is concerned and a track record of doing it,” Moon said. “This fact is too often overlooked or undervalued.”
Newcastle musician Emily Sabino stumped for Sanders.
“You’re concerned about the fate of this nation, aren’t you?” Sabino said. “Maybe on some of these sleepless nights, maybe you were lying awake and … whether you’re agnostic or you’re religious or you’re spiritual, you sent a request out: ‘Please, send a wise leader to us. We need somebody.’
“It looked impossible, but guess what? We got Bernie Sanders!”
Local politics were also on the agenda, with party officials recruiting volunteers to sit on town and county committees and work as ballot clerks, and candidates for county and state office collecting signatures and making speeches.
State Sen. Chris Johnson, D-Somerville, represents all of Lincoln County except Dresden, plus Washington and Windsor.
“We are the line of protection against the kind of mayhem and demolition of the functioning of state government that Gov. LePage is working on, but we need to do more than just protect against harm,” Johnson said. “We need majorities strong enough that getting just a few Republicans to join us will enable us to do good, to build on Maine’s strengths and our natural advantages and to create opportunities for all people to live a good life, not just the wealthiest few.”
The caucus did have some issues, with long lines to fill out registration forms and a shortage of parking at some locations.
The high turnout across the state – voters reportedly waited in line as long as four hours in Portland – led Maine Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond, D-Portland, to introduce a bill that would replace the caucuses with a primary system.
Gov. Paul LePage, Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, and House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, have voiced support for the legislation.
Some local officials are reluctant to give up on the caucus system, including Torbert, the county chairman.
A primary “would be less messy, that’s true,” Torbert said. “I think we have to refine the way we run our caucus. It got unwieldy.”
The caucus still serves an important purpose, however, as “a great opportunity to identify people who are going to be active and build your volunteer base,” Torbert said.