GARDINER — When it came time to count the Bernie Sanders’ supporters at Sunday’s Democratic city caucus in Gardiner High School, Bree Candland piped up.

“Walk the lunch line,” she said, drawing a laugh from the large crowd in the corner of the room.

Those favoring Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders totaled 101. The Hillary Clinton camp, assembled diagonally across the cafeteria, numbered 66.

Absentee ballots increased those numbers to 127 for Sanders and 96 for Clinton, giving them nine and seven delegates respectively to the Democratic State Convention set for May 5 and 6 in Portland. The breakdown between the two Democratic presidential hopefuls seemed to be repeated in other central Maine towns.

Like the Republicans, who caucused by county Saturday, the turnout was higher than usual, most attracted by the high profile presidential contest.

In Hallowell, for instance, where 64 absentee ballots were cast and 233 assembled in person, Sanders took seven delegates to Clinton’s five.

From Monmouth, where 97 votes were cast, 24 of those absentee, Sanders earned five delegates to Clinton’s four.

Augusta Democrats caucused at Cony High School, many still in line to register at the 1 p.m. start time.

Maeghan Maloney, who is district attorney in Kennebec and Somerset counties and who chaired the caucus, called the turnout “awesome” and the atmosphere “very congenial.”

She said 350 people attended Sunday and 185 others cast absentee ballots. The results were Sanders 323 and Clinton’s 208 with four undecided.. That gave Sanders 30 delegates to the state convention and Clinton 19.

“It was so exciting to have that many people present,” Maloney said afterward. “I had many people tell me they had never attended a caucus before.”

Back in Gardiner, the mood at the round cafeteria tables was friendly with Sanders supporters sitting with Clinton supporters and flanking the undecided.

Candland was clear about her choice, wearing a long-sleeved gray sweatshirt printed with Sanders’ name and below that “Magical.” “For me, it’s because he has a 30-year consistent record in politics for doing what’s right instead of what’s popular.”

A 2001 Bowdoin College graduate, she’s a regular caucus attendee. “I never miss one.”

At her table were a half dozen women, all wearing “Bernie” buttons or shirts.

“I have a 3-year-old son, and I want to make sure we have a candidate who is going to provide the best future for him,” said Chelsea Eastman.

“We need to focus on returning the government to the people and out of the hands of big corporations,” said Clare Marron, whose T-shirt read “Bernie for the future.”

They were joined by Sarah Chapin, who at 14 is too young to vote, but wanted to add her voice in praise of Sanders. “He supports the things that I need in terms of education, healthcare and lifestyle,” she said.

State Rep. Gay Grant of Gardiner gave an impassioned speech urging votes for Clinton, praising her work on behalf of women and on health care as well as her international experience as secretary of state. “She’s got the experience, she’s got the values that we all hold dear as Democrats and she’s had them for more than 40 years.”

David Greenham, who addressed the caucus on behalf of Sanders, praised Clinton, but said there was a “revolution” in favor of Sanders. “Let’s really run for all those core values that the Democrats really have, and those are about supporting education for real, not just about giving people access to more debt, but giving people education that’s paid for. We need to start paying attention to hunger. We need to start paying attention to global warming,” he said, adding that it appears Clinton is tacking further to the left because of Sanders’ positions.

Louise Schimke, 57, was attending her first caucus. “I’m here to support my Democratic party, and I have an open mind for either candidate. My preference is Hillary, but I’m open to Bernie.”

Sharing the same table was Paulette Newcomb, 65, at her first caucus largely to experience the process “to put in my two cents for my candidate, Hillary.”

“I wouldn’t mind Sanders,” said Nancy Weingarten, 65, adding, “I think Hillary Clinton has the experience and knowledge we need in a president.”

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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