WILTON — Residents gathered for Maine Democratic caucuses Sunday, hoping to drum up support for a bid to reclaim the state Legislature from Republicans and prepare for the national elections this fall.

Democratic party organizers believed the presidential race and recent political battles would help them rebound this year from 2010, when poor turnouts at caucuses were followed by Republican wins in national and state elections.

Cuts in social services for Mainers and the national contraception debate seemed to be the primary concerns for the 17 people at the Wilton caucus, held in the town municipal offices in the Franklin County community of about 4,100 residents.

Chris Krauss, who chairs the town’s Democratic Committee, thinks the two issues will drive strong voter turnout among people seeking to elect Democrats running for state and federal offices.

Krauss, 65, said Republican lawmakers have been pushing for social service cuts that hurt the most vulnerable Mainers, who Democratic challengers would defend by looking at cuts to alternative programs.

She thinks a lot of voters will also turn out because of controversy surrounding the federal rule that requires employers to provide health insurance coverage for contraceptives and other preventive health services.

Krauss, a retired flight attendant, believes a lot of women will vote for candidates seeking to replace lawmakers who oppose the federal rule, calling it an issue about women’s civil rights.

After the caucus adjourned, Connie Reynolds said the contraception debate motivated her to get active in helping to build support for Democratic candidates this year.

Reynolds, 74, recalled growing up when women had few rights in general, saying she would fight to keep from returning to that political climate. She worked at marketing firms and as a legal secretary before retiring, and she said her generation struggled to gain equality for women today.

At the caucuses Sunday, those in attendance selected local delegates to the Democratic State Convention in June. They also elected municipal officers for the town and county Democratic Committees in their communities.

The caucuses also asked people for their preference in the presidential election, giving them an option of President Barack Obama, uncommitted or a write-in candidate.

In Wilton, all but one of the 11 women and six men raised their hands to show a preference for Obama.

The uncommitted vote came from Michael Hoehne, 66, who described himself as a Democrat most disappointed by Obama’s performance on privacy issues tied to the Patriot Act.

Hoehne, a self-employed graphic designer, said that he is satisfied with how Obama handled the economy, which is starting to recover from problems caused by Republican policies.

In Winslow, about 20 people attended the caucus in the town’s fire station, according to Elery Keene, the town Democratic Committee vice chair for the Kennebec County community of about 7,800 residents.

In a phone interview, Keene, 78, said all residents raised their hands to show a unanimous preference for Obama. They also listened to speeches from candidates seeking Democratic nominations to run for state Legislature.

The future of social service programs and environmental regulations were the biggest issues raised by voters at the caucus, with many saying they supported Democrats who appear to take more reasonable approaches to solving the problems than Republicans, Keene said.

“I think there are a lot of people who will get out and support these candidates this year,” he said.

David Robinson — 861-9287

[email protected]

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