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60 attend GOP caucus on Mount Desert Island

Bill Trotter | BDN
Bill Trotter | BDN
Tremont Republican Party Chairman Ben Harper, with hand raised, calls for a vote during the Mount Desert Island GOP caucus Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012, at the fire station in the Mount Desert village of Somesville. About 60 MDI residents attended the gathering, but the state Republican organization has said it intends not to announce which GOP candidate gets the most support at the party's caucuses until Feb. 11.
By Bill Trotter, BDN Staff

MOUNT DESERT, Maine — There was little indication Saturday morning at a Mount Desert Island-wide Republican Party caucus about which presidential candidate was the preferred choice.

About 60 people attended the sedate, two-hour gathering, and of those only three people — one of whom is an elected GOP state legislator from Ellsworth — spoke openly to the group about who they supported in the Republican presidential nomination contest.

Robert Page of Southwest Harbor, the Hancock County coordinator for the Ron Paul campaign, spoke in support of the Texas congressman while Maine state Sen. Brian Langley of Ellsworth and Swan’s Island resident Jeffrey Ellison spoke in support of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. No one addressed the group in support of either of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich or former Sen. Rick Santorum.

The outcome of the caucus, in keeping with the expressed wishes of the Maine Republican Party, was not disclosed. State GOP leaders have said they plan to announce how the four Republican presidential candidates fared at party caucuses throughout the state, which are spread out over several weeks, on the evening of Saturday, Feb. 11.

Ron Paul visited Maine last weekend, making several public appearances, but none of the other four candidates have appeared in Maine for the 2012 campaign. All four are further west this weekend, either campaigning in Nevada, which also is holding Republican caucuses on Saturday, or other states.

Much of the caucus activity Saturday on MDI was oriented more towards the nuts-and-bolts aspects of local party organization, rather than debate over who the party’s presidential nominee should be, according to officials.

Joanne Eaton, GOP chairman for the town of Mount Desert, said that a lot of what was decided Saturday was “boring.” Registered Republican voters broke into groups representing each of MDI’s towns and, aside from writing down their presidential choice, also elected local party leaders and decided who would represent the town’s GOP organization at the upcoming state convention in May.

“That’s important [but] that’s not the exciting part of it,” Eaton said.

Paul Paradis, a Bar Harbor town councilor, also got up to speak to the larger group before it broke up into smaller groups representing individual towns. Paradis is planning to run as a Republican candidate for District 35 in the Maine House of Representatives, which is currently held by Elsie Flemings, a two-term Democrat from Bar Harbor.

Paradis echoed Eaton in extolling the importance of the caucus’ organizational votes to maintaining the party’s grass-roots presence in local towns. He said the willingness of local GOP voters to tend to those duties, and not to get into heated debates about candidates, is one reason he enjoys attending local caucuses.

“That’s why I like this group of people,” Paradis said. “Sometimes there’s disagreement, but there’s never any drama about it.”

More information about the scheduling of other GOP caucuses in Maine can be found on the Maine GOP website, www.mainegop.com. The party’s state convention is expected to be held May 5 and 6 in Augusta. Maine delegates to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, which is scheduled for Aug. 27-30 in Tampa, Fla., will be selected at the state convention.

Follow BDN reporter Bill Trotter on Twitter at @billtrotter.

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