Maine delegates to next week’s Democratic National Convention range from a 17-year-old from Jay to political veterans and state lawmakers.

And they also have varying reasons for taking part in the four-day event, from hoping to end the party’s superdelegate system to vowing to keep pushing for Bernie Sanders, who won the Maine caucuses with 64 percent of the vote, but nationally came up well short of presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton.

Maine is sending 30 representatives to the convention: 17 delegates who are pledged to Bernie Sanders, eight pledged to Clinton and five so-called “superdelegates” who are allowed to cast ballots for any candidate of their choice, although four have pledged to support Clinton.

State Rep. Dianne Russell, who sparked a nationwide effort to end the Democratic Party’s superdelegate system, will take up the battle again with the national party’s rules committee in Philadelphia Saturday. Backers say more than 50 rules committee members have agreed to take up the anti-superdelegate issue, which is enough to send a minority report to convention delegates for a floor vote on the amendment.


Clinton, who has enough delegates to win the nomination, told the Washington Post in June that she’s open to having a discussion about changes to superdelegates after the convention.


Petitions signed by more than 110,000 people will be delivered to the rules committee Saturday, according to the rules committee member sponsoring the anti-superdelegate amendment.

“Superdelegates disempower voters, they are less diverse than our overall delegates, and they are wildly unpopular,” Rhode Island Rep. Aaron Regunberg said in a statement. “The time has come to end the archaic and undemocratic superdelegate system once and for all – and that starts Saturday in Philadelphia.”

Russell, who arrived in Philadelphia Thursday, said it’s too early to know how a floor vote would go, but she and others wanting to end the superdelegate system “are definitely on the right side of history.”

“There are a lot of people who think the system works, but there are a lot more who don’t,” said Russell, a Sanders delegate. Superdelegates are free to vote for the candidate of their choosing.

Troy Jackson, an Allagash logger seeking a return to the state Senate, said he supports abolishing superdelegates – even though he is one for Sanders.

“It’s a way for the elites of the party to try to keep control,” he said. “It’s a real serf kind of system and I can’t stand it.”


Jackson believes the amendment’s prospects are “slim, but it’s got a chance.”

Russell led the anti-superdelegate effort at the Maine State Democratic Convention in May to require that, beginning in 2020, the state’s total delegate votes at the national convention be awarded proportionately based on the results of the state’s presidential caucus or primary. That could bind some superdelegates to supporting certain candidates in order to maintain the outcome of the statewide vote. Maine Democrats also voted called on the national party to eliminate the superdelegate system altogether.

Diane Russell

Diane Russell

The vote made national headlines and the tactic was picked up by Sanders supporters in other states. After Maine’s vote, roughly 20 states passed resolutions changing or urging national changes to the superdelegate system.

But Russell was cautious about what could happen in Philadelphia, noting that members of the “Never Trump” movement thought they had enough votes on the Republican National Committee’s Rules Committee last week to allow a floor debate on an effort to “unbind” delegates, only to see the effort fail for lack of support.

“I can’t say I have a good feel for it,” Russell said.



Cynthia Dill, a southern Maine attorney who served in the Legislature, is a Clinton delegate. She attended the 2008 Democratic National Convention as a Clinton delegate, although President Obama had locked up the nomination by that point. She said she’s going to Philadelphia “because I want to finish the job.”

“The convention was one of the highlights of my adult life,” said Dill, who writes political commentary for the Maine Sunday Telegram. “It was very fun and just really inspiring.”

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cynthia Dill

Cynthia Dill

Dill said while there are always robust policy debates within a political party, she does not expect to see the same type of divisions and theatrics that played out at the Republic National Convention in Cleveland this week.

“We’re not going to see anybody like Ted Cruz use the opportunity of a national stage to humiliate the winner,” Dill said.

She will not be supporting the efforts to eliminate superdelegates or restrict their voting flexibility because she believes people are elected to those positions based on their positions or experiences. She does not expect the push for a change to be successful.

And while the Democratic convention is expected to be less contentious than the Republican convention, several Maine delegates said they plan to fight for Sanders.


“I’m headed to Philadelphia to represent our Bernie voters and to stand up for the platform issues I personally care deeply about,” Sanders delegate Liz Smith wrote on a GoFundMe page she started to cover travel costs. “I will NOT be changing my vote at the convention. There is nothing the DNC can dangle in front me that would persuade me to disenfranchise the Maine voters I represent.”

Fellow Sanders delegate Seth Berner of Portland also said he will make the case for Sanders, adding that he was “very unhappy” that Sanders endorsed Clinton this month.

Seth Berner

Seth Berner

“I really hope that those who want a direction other than that being offered by Hillary will be free to say so,” Berner said. “I want it done in a way that is civil. I’m certainly not in support of chaos or chair throwing. But to me, a level of divisiveness is not a bad thing. There has been far too much conformity and far too little acceptance of dissent in our political discourse.”

After the convention, if the heavily favored Clinton wins the nomination, there will be time for Sanders’ supporters to change their minds.

“Then we can say, ‘OK, we gave it our best shot,'” Berner said. “We can say we were part of a democratic process, part of a political debate based on a free and informed exchange of ideas, which I think has been lost from a lot of politicking.”

Sanders delegate Cokie Giles, president of the Maine State Nurses Association, also is wary: “(Some Clinton supporters) figured Hillary was the best shot, and I’m very, very afraid she’s not the best shot.”



Several delegates said they were looking forward to the lighter side of the convention.

“Going to a convention is like Disneyland for adults,” said Ralph Carmona, a Clinton delegate who attended his first national convention as a 21-year-old delegate in 1972. “It’s the balloons, it’s entertainment, it’s the food. Lady Gaga is performing.”

Ralph Carmona

Ralph Carmona

Carmona, a long-time Democratic activist, is struck by today’s shifting political landscape, with young millennials – and their priorities – dominating the current and near future debate.

“The pressure is on Clinton. She’s got to elevate her game so that it’s more reflective of where they are coming from,” Carmona said.

Another Clinton delegate, 17-year-old Trevor Doiron, will be making his mark as one of the youngest delegates in Philadelphia.


“A year ago, I would have never imagined myself as a delegate,” said Doiron, who will be traveling to Philadelphia on a charter bus with other Maine delegates.

Doiron said a Facebook group he started for other young national delegates, all under 23 years old, has grown to 58 members.

The recent Spruce Mountain High School graduate, who turns 18 in time to vote in November, said he got the politics bug in 2008, when a neighbor asked him to put up political signs. Later, a Howard Dean rally struck home, and he’s since been actively involved in Democrat politics.

Becoming a delegate was exciting, and deliberate. “I decided that I should try. I wanted to show that someone who didn’t come from a rich family, just a normal family, can make a difference on the national stage,” he said.

Superdelegate Phil Bartlett, the state party chairman, said he expected there would be a “lot of excitement” in Philadelphia but not the division that surfaced in Cleveland.

“You are going to see a different picture in Philadelphia,” he said. Clinton and Sanders have “a lot of differences, but they share a lot more in common than divides them.”


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