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Maine may return to presidential primary after controversial caucus

Posted May 16, 2012, at 6:32 p.m.
Last modified May 16, 2012, at 6:56 p.m.

Poll Question

Senate President Kevin Raye
Senate President Kevin Raye

AUGUSTA, Maine — A bill that would create a presidential primary in Maine was revived Wednesday with legislative approval to study the change over the summer.

LD 1882, An Act to Establish a Presidential Primary in the State, was one of the final bills to be submitted in the 125th Legislature, which was on track to wrap up its work Wednesday night. Instead of passing the bill as written, the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee voted in late March to turn it into a resolve to study the issue and make recommendations by the end of the year.

Senate President Kevin Raye, R-Perry, who sponsored the bill, said Wednesday that one reason for the delay between the committee’s vote two months ago and approval by the full Legislature on Wednesday was that legislative leadership had to decide whether to allow the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee to hold meetings through the summer.

The study comes on the heels of a contentious Republican caucus process that unfolded in Maine this year. The GOP caucuses, which were held in February, declared Mitt Romney the winner even before all the caucus votes were counted. Among the areas that were miscounted was Washington County, which is where Raye is from. Those events angered supporters of Ron Paul, who finished a close second in the caucuses and then managed a win at the GOP convention earlier this month.

Raye said his reasoning for proposing the bill is to involve more people in the process of nominating candidates for the presidency. He added that “it makes no sense” to nominate candidates for offices at all other levels through a primary while singling out the presidential race for a caucus.

“I have never understood why we have that double standard,” he said. “No one would ever suggest that we forego a primary for any of those other offices, so why do we do it for president?”

Maine held presidential primaries in 2000 and 2004 before switching back to a caucus system.

The resolve enacted Wednesday directs the Legal and Veterans Affairs Committee to work with the secretary of state’s office on a timeline for implementing and then maintaining a primary process. The committee is directed to submit its findings by Dec. 1 of this year and develop a bill that will be submitted in the first session of the 126th Legislature.

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