With Maine Democratic caucuses being held in more than 450 communities across the state Sunday, caucuses in Wilton and Farmington drew a large number of civil and passionate voters to decide how their towns’ delegates would be apportioned between the two Democratic presidential nominees at the state convention in May.

In Wilton, about 75 registered Democrats, several of whom had recently registered with the party, packed the Wilson Grange Sunday afternoon for just over an hour to advocate their preference between presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Voting at the Democratic caucuses was conducted in the traditional manner of dividing the room into areas of candidate support and having voters align themselves accordingly. In Wilton, Sanders ultimately came out on top, receiving 53 in person votes and 14 absentee votes. Clinton received 36 total votes. After the vote nine delegates were chosen to represent Wilton at the state Democratic convention in Portland this May with Sanders receiving six of Wilton’s delegates and Clinton receiving three.

In caucus fashion prior to voting and alternating by candidate preference, people voiced why they were choosing to support Clinton or Sanders. The mini and informal stump speeches touched on social, economic and electability issues, all the while trying to persuade supporters of the other candidate why they should switch.

Clinton supporters said that her time spent as first lady, as an elected U.S. senator and as Secretary of State has given her the skill set needed to run a country and ultimately make her more electable than whichever candidate wins the Republican nomination.

Maggy Wyckoff, a Clinton campaign volunteer and Wilton resident, addressed the caucus with her “pragmatic idealism” based reason for supporting Clinton.

“I have a lot of things that line me with Bernie,” Wyckoff said. “(But) I think Hillary has a better chance of actually winning … She can hit the ground running on just about any issue.”

Sanders supporters relished their candidate’s outsider status with one supporter asserting that the people who say he is not electable are only making the problem worse.

“They are the reason for that (belief). We gotta get off our butts! Don’t be afraid to express that you support Bernie Sanders,” Charles Woodbury said.

Woodbury was one of the most passionate Sanders supporters at the Wilton caucus, stating that in his lifetime he hasn’t seen any other candidate so openly take on corporate interests or the “messed up two-party system.”

“If we want to see something actually change and be shaken up, we need Bernie Sanders to do that,” Woodbury said. As he sat down, receiving applause from his fellow Sanders supporters, he shouted, “Feel the Bern!”

Irving Faunce, convener of the Wilton caucus, said that the turnout was similar to the caucus for the 2008 presidential election, but that he was happy to see both Sanders and Clinton supporters fired up this year.

However, it was Sanders who inspired several first time voters to participate in Sunday’s democratic process, including 17-year-old Wilton resident Rachel Roy. Roy will turn 18 by the presidential election in November and so was able to participate in the caucus. She attributes that urge to participate to Sanders.

“The reason I really wanted to vote was because of Bernie,” Roy told her fellow voters from her spot in the back of the full Grange.

The many University of Maine Farmington students who were participating in the process for the first time were also motivated by Sanders’ candidacy to turn out at the Farmington caucus.

“There’s a genuine concern among college students,” Travis St. Pierre, a junior at UMF, said. “(Sanders) kind of speaks to our whole sense of helping each other.”

The Farmington, New Vineyard and Industry Democratic caucuses were held at UMF’s North Dining Hall at 3 p.m. Sunday and drew hundreds of voters. An official participation count was not available as of late Sunday afternoon.

Voter registration began at 2 p.m., but with a huge turnout of college students, the line to register and enter the caucus was still about 75 people long at 3:30 p.m. An adjoining room had to be opened up to accommodate the people who wanted to participate. “It’s a bigger turnout than we expected,” said Ed David, Farmington Democratic caucus convener.

Lauren Abbate — 861-9252

[email protected]

Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate


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