Maine Democrats gather for local caucuses

George Burgoyne (back center) leads the Bangor Democratic caucus at Wellman Commons on the former Bangor Theological Seminary campus on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2010. Democratic caucuses were held in 387 Maine towns Sunday during which they heard from candidates and chose delegates to the Democratic State Convention which will be May 21 and 22 in Lewiston. (Bangor Daily News/Bridget Brown)
George Burgoyne (back center) leads the Bangor Democratic caucus at Wellman Commons on the former Bangor Theological Seminary campus on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2010. Democratic caucuses were held in 387 Maine towns Sunday during which they heard from candidates and chose delegates to the Democratic State Convention which will be May 21 and 22 in Lewiston. (Bangor Daily News/Bridget Brown)
Posted Jan. 31, 2010, at 10:10 a.m.
Jim Davitt puts up balloons in support of gubernatorial candidate Elizabeth &quotLibby" Mitchell during the Bangor Democratic caucus at Wellman Commons on the former Bangor Theological Seminary campus on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2010. Democratic caucuses were held in 387 Maine towns Sunday during which they heard from candidates and chose delegates to the Democratic State Convention which will be May 21 and 22 in Lewiston. (Bangor Daily News/Bridget Brown)
Jim Davitt puts up balloons in support of gubernatorial candidate Elizabeth "Libby" Mitchell during the Bangor Democratic caucus at Wellman Commons on the former Bangor Theological Seminary campus on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2010. Democratic caucuses were held in 387 Maine towns Sunday during which they heard from candidates and chose delegates to the Democratic State Convention which will be May 21 and 22 in Lewiston. (Bangor Daily News/Bridget Brown)

BANGOR, Maine — Democrats in more than 300 Maine communities participated in caucuses Sunday to select delegates to attend the Democratic State Convention in May, elect municipal officers and county committee members and, most importantly, to discuss issues they feel should be addressed in Augusta.

“It’s a time for folks with issues to talk about them with fellow Democrats and [for] folks from the city to talk with their representatives,” George Burgoyne, Bangor Caucus Convention chairman, said just before the event began at Wellman Commons on the former Bangor Theological Seminary campus.

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Bangor Democrats elect city officers and members of their county committee every two years, so those elections will take place in 2011; however, most other communities elect their members annually, he said.

Veazie Democrats also caucused at Wellman Commons on Sunday.

U.S. 2nd District Rep. Mike Michaud was host for a pre-caucus brunch Sunday morning to kick off Bangor’s event and drew four of the seven Democratic candidates for governor, Bangor Councilor Gerry Palmer said.

“There were over 100 people here,” Palmer said.

Attending the Bangor event were gubernatorial candidates Steven Rowe, former state attorney general; John Richardson, a former speaker of the House; Senate President Elizabeth “Libby” Mitchell; and Pat McGowan, former state conservation commissioner.

“They all made speeches and raised enthusiasm for the election,” said Bill Sullivan, who has served as caucus secretary for the last four years.

Each community that held caucuses elected representatives to attend the May 21-22 party convention in Lewiston, Burgoyne said.

“Bangor has 78 slots, and I would be willing to bet” everyone who attended Sunday’s caucus volunteered to attend, he said. “We technically elected anybody who wanted to go.”

About 50 Bangor residents volunteered to go to the convention on Sunday, so there is room for another 30 or so volunteers, Sullivan said.

Once the caucus started, Bangor legislative Reps. Adam Goode, Sara Stevens, Jim Martin and Steve Butterfield gave the 50 or so attendees an overview of what has happened in Augusta in the last year.

Bangor resident Deborah Turcotte brought along her two daughters, MaggieBeth, 10, and Lauren, 9, to the event as an educational experience.

“I want them to learn about the democratic process,” she said.

Lauren Turcotte said she is running for student council at her school.

Martin, who represents House District 19, which includes the east side of Bangor, Veazie and Orono, said this year Democrats really need to be proactive to win during the primary election in June, and in November.

“We have 22 candidates running for governor, and anything can happen,” he said.

To keep a high number of Democrats in Augusta, supporters must volunteer, Martin said.

“Make sure you get out and work for your Democratic candidate,” he said.

All told, caucuses were being held Sunday in 387 towns from Kittery to Fort Kent.

Arden Manning, executive director of the Maine Democratic Party, called it the “kickoff to the 2010 election cycle.”

Manning called the caucuses an opportunity for people to have their voices heard and provide direction to the party.

He said all attendees were being encouraged to text “HAITI” to 90999 to make a $10 contribution to the American Red Cross efforts in Haiti.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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