Waterville Caucus declares Presidential candidate Bernie Saunders winner

Over the weekend, the Maine President Caucus was held across the state. On Saturday, Republicans caucused and saw Senator Ted Cruz come away with a victory. The Democrats caucused on Sunday and the majority supported Senator Bernie Sanders.

Cruz’s recent campaigning in the state paid off as he garnered 8,550 votes, equivalent to 45.9 percent of the vote. Of the four remaining Republican Presidential candidates, Senator Marco Rubio fared the worst. Rubio has often been labeled as the “establishment” candidate for the GOP, but has struggled recently. Donald Trump came in second in Maine with 6,070 votes (32.6 percent).

Currently, Trump has the most pledged delegates as the candidates vie for the Republican nomination. Maine awards 23 delegates. Cruz won 12 delegates, Trump was awarded nine delegates, and Governor John Kasich claimed two delegates. Rubio did not receive any delegates from Maine. A record number of voters turned out to the polls on Saturday and the Maine Republican Party reported that turnout was triple that of 2012, with 18,650 voters.

In Kennebec County, the vote was mainly split between Cruz (759 votes) and Trump (461 votes). Both candidates recently held rallies in Maine, with Cruz holding his at University of Maine Orono, and Trump’s in Portland.

At the Kennebec County caucus site, Governor Paul LePage, who was originally a Waterville resident and served as the Mayor of Waterville, threw his support behind Trump. LePage endorsed Trump in late February shortly after Trump was endorsed by Governor Chris Christie. Christie and LePage are close friends. The Echo did not attend the Republican caucus.

Morgan Springer ’17, a Hampden, Maine resident, attended the Penobscot County Caucus in Bangor, Maine. Springer stated in an email to the Echo that the line was over two hours long when voting was originally scheduled to start. Springer is a Cruz supporter and voted for the Senator on Saturday. She stated: “I like Ted Cruz because he supports small business and sees that the best way for America to turn our economy around is to get the government off the backs of business owners.” Springer continued, “I’m at the point in my life where I’m about to enter the job market, and I’m hoping that an economic plan like Cruz’s will help to increase job opportunities. I feel like he has a grasp on how to help middle class families like mine live our lives without so much government intervention.” Springer reported that the large majority of people in attendance supported Cruz. The Bangor area is predominately white and Catholic, demographics dominated by Cruz.

Cruz’s rally at the University of Maine at Orono on Friday, March 4 was an hour’s drive away from Bangor. Springer also attended the Cruz rally and detailed that many college students were in attendance and that Cruz motivated the crowd. Springer stated that she supported Cruz over Trump because of Cruz’s strong dedication to his values: “I appreciate that he has strong values and opinions, but has actual plans for how to deal with things in office, unlike Trump who doesn’t give a straight answer on any policy question.”

Some Colby students at the caucus on Sunday.

Some Colby students at the caucus on Sunday.

President of The Colby Republicans, Chris Shorey ’16, caucused for Kasich.  Shorey stated, “Kasich is the best candidate left in the field in my personal opinion, however, the votes aren’t going his way. Rubio would be the next choice, but he needs to focus more on his policy and less on attacking Trump before we can evaluate whether or not he fits the club’s ideals, he is also in a clear third place. Neither Cruz nor Trump represent a candidate that I would seriously consider throwing the club’s support behind as one of the clubs leaders.”

On Sunday, the Democrats caucused across the state. Sanders won 2,231 votes (64.3 percent) and Clinton won 1,232 votes (35.5 percent). The Echo attended the Waterville Caucus. 668 people attended the Waterville caucus and the majority supported Sanders. Waterville is a predominately white area and has been in the midst of an economic downturn since the closing of the local mills. In Waterville, Sanders had 398 supporters and Clinton had 270. The caucus was well attended by Colby students and Colby students were very active in local campaigning. An organizer for the Clinton campaigned stated that there was a great volunteer base of Colby students who helped mobilize students.

In the week leading up to the caucus, students and clubs were active on campus. The Colby Democrats helped to register over 100 students on campus the weeks prior to the caucus. On Wednesday, March 2, the Echo Executive Board announced its endorsement of Hillary Clinton.

Colby student’s support for the candidates was broadly split. Kaitlin Fitzgerald ’16, who is originally from Vermont, supported her home state senator, Sanders. In an interview with the Echo, Fitzgerald stated that she believes “Bernie is the only authentic candidate.” She continued, saying, “[Sanders] has the potential to get voters actually rallying for what they want, therefore, producing change in Congress.”

Molly Fieldstein '16 and Zoe Atchinson '16, both played pivotal roles in campaigning for Hillary in Waterville.

Molly Fieldstein ’16 and Zoe Atchinson ’16, both played pivotal roles in campaigning for Hillary in Waterville.

Many students were also attracted by the democratic process of a caucus. Jeremy Vale ’18 stated that this would most likely be the only chances for him to caucus in his life. Vale, a Sanders supporter, commented that he was excited to see “democracy in action.”

Zoe Atchinson ’16, who has served as an organizing fellow for Hillary’s campaign in New Hampshire and in Maine,  says, “I support Hillary because, in her own words, she is a progressive who gets things done.  She has the strongest experience and has proven able to work with others to make things happen.”

Henry Beck ’09 is the current State Representative for District 110 representing part of Waterville and Oakland. At the Democratic caucus, he rallied support for his campaign for State Senate. Beck is challenging Republican State Senator Scott Cyrway for the seat in District 16. Senate District 16 is made up of the towns of Albion, Benton, Clinton, Fairfield, Unity Plantation, Waterville, and Winslow. Beck announced his candidacy for State Representative in 2008 at the Caucus and has consistently supported a progressive agenda that according to his campaign website, supports public schools, environmental protections, and drug prevention. Beck in a speech to the crowd made promises about the future and claimed that he wanted to move Maine away from the type of “Donald Trump politics that are currently gripping the nation.”

Some excited Colby Hillary Supporters!

Some excited Colby Hillary Supporters!

Beck also advocated for local democrats to “vote up their ballot.” This sentiment was echoed by Hannah Heidt. Heidt, as the Waterville Democratic Committee Chair is the primary Democratic strategist for the city and surrounding area. Heidt hosted a small fundraiser at the caucus as well, raising over $700 to attempt to open a Democratic campaign office in Waterville. She stated that her goal was to have a campaign office open for two months before the party or county committee provided funds for a potential Waterville office.  Heidt is an experienced Democratic strategist having organized local campaigns in seven states. She is originally from the midwest. Heidt identified the Waterville Mayoral race as one where the Democrats could compete and challenge. Mayor Nick Isgro was elected in 2015 and is a Republican.

Nellie LaValle ’18 was elected to sit on the Municipal Committee for Waterville, and told The Echo “As a Mainer I always like to get involved in Maine politics and it will be a great way to make my voice heard and learn more about local party workings.” Following the caucus, multiple Colby students were elected to become State convention delegates. Echo Co-Editor-in-Chief Kiernan Somers ’17 and Local News Editor Adelaide Bullock ’18 were elected as delegates for Clinton. Copy Editor Ellie Donohue ’16 was elected as an alternate delegate for Clinton.

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