BANGOR, Maine — Margaret Howson wants to run for office one day but the 20-year old University of Maine student believes in starting small and going big later.
On Saturday, she was elected chairman of the Hampden Republican Committee at the caucus held by Penobscot County Republicans at Husson University. Howson also will head the town’s 23-member delegation to the GOP’s state convention April 25 – 27 at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
“It’s been a bit of a whirlwind,” Howson, who was not old enough to vote in the last presidential election, said after the Hampden caucus concluded its business. “I didn’t think of myself as a political animal until recently.”
Saturday’s caucus was the first Howson has ever attended.
Most people who attended are people who “get out there and do the grunt work,” House Minority Leader Ken Fredette of Newport said. “These are the worker bees.”
The turnout for the caucus was much smaller Saturday than it was two years ago during the presidential primary and four years ago when seven candidates, including Paul LePage, ran in the gubernatorial primary, Fredette said.
In 2012, enthusiastic Ron Paul supporters turned out en masse and were elected in large numbers to the state convention in Augusta. It broke down in parliamentary chaos, according to previously published reporters.
The 2014 caucus drew a combination of seasoned GOP campaigners and more than two dozen young Republicans like Howson.
A graduate of John Bapst Memorial High School, who is majoring in English and psychology and minoring in political science and journalism, she appears to be the kind of person the Republican State Committee had in mind when it recently launched a new initiative called “#GEN207” in an effort to engage more young voters.
The name is built for a generation that lives on social media, styled for engagement on Twitter, Facebook and anywhere else young people congregate online, according to a previously published report. The initiative is a communications effort, a recruitment tool and a way to rally the young people already in the party, Maine Republican Party Field Organizer Joe Turcotte, 24, said last month.
Howson has 12 different news apps on her cellphone and spends much of her free time with people who are interested in politics,
“You can’t just blindly follow one news source,” she said. “It’s not just listening exclusively to those who agree with you. You have to listen to people who disagree with you.”
Howson also is active in the college Republican organization on campus but wanted to get involved on the grassroots level in the town where she lives.
“I am one of the most social people out there,” she said. “I like talking to people developing relationships with them and showing them what Republican policies are really about.”
Howson said that she may not agree with every stance the party takes but feels “the views of the party are most closely in line with my own personal thoughts and values.” The newly elected town chair said she was not familiar with the party’s position on every issue.
She said the most important issues facing her generation are high student loan debt and the lack of job opportunities after graduation.
Howson said her role models are U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and former state Sen. Debra Plowman of Hampden, who is chairman of the Penobscot County GOP.
“It’s hard to find women role models,” the student said. “I’m so lucky to have them.”
Howson was one of more than 200 people who turned out to see and hear Republican candidates running for office. Collins, who is seeking re-election, was greeted warmly by the crowd.
Kevin Raye and Bruce Poliquin, who both are seeking the Republican nomination in the 2nd Congressional District also addressed the group. Gov. Paul LePage was unable to attend but sent a representative to the event.
Candidates seeking local offices also attended including Troy Morton, who is seeking to replace his boss, Penobscot County Sheriff Glenn Ross, who is not seeking re-election.
The Penobscot County Republican Committee’s Lincoln Day Dinner will be held beginning at 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15, at Jeff’s Catering in Brewer. Reservations should be made by Thursday, Feb. 13, with Rep. Stacey Gueron, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.