HANCOCK, Maine — For those keeping close watch on the state primary and caucus scorecard of the Republican Party presidential nominating contest, Washington County will be the main focus of their attention this weekend.
But GOP voters in the country’s easternmost county are not the only ones who might influence the overall statewide results of Maine’s straw poll on which candidate should get the party’s nomination. In neighboring Hancock County, 14 towns with a combined population of approximately 11,000 residents also will be holding two GOP caucuses this Saturday.
Washington County’s caucus will be held at 1:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 18, at Washington Academy in East Machias. More than 34,000 people live in Washington County, according to figures from the 2010 Census.
Results released last weekend by the Maine Republican Party indicate that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney received only 194 more votes in Maine than Ron Paul, the congressman from Texas. Even though some caucuses in Maine still had not been held, the party announced that Romney was the winner of Maine’s statewide straw poll. The results were widely reported in Maine and nationwide.
Paul supporters and some county GOP officials have complained about the way the Maine GOP announced the results, saying that all of Maine’s caucus vote totals need to be tallied before the winner of the close contest can be determined.
In Hancock County, two Republican caucuses will be held this Saturday.
Registered GOP voters in the towns of Fletcher’s Landing, Gouldsboro, Hancock, Lamoine, Sorrento, Sullivan, Waltham and Winter Harbor will meet at the Hancock Grammar School in the local village on Route 1 at 10 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 18. Doors will open at 9 a.m. for residents of those towns who want to register with the party before the caucus begins.
Another caucus will be held at the Eastbrook Town Office on Route 200 at 1 p.m. on the same day. That caucus will be open to registered GOP voters from Amherst, Aurora, Eastbrook, Franklin, Great Pond, Mariaville and Osborn. Doors will open at noon for people who need to register before the caucus begins.
Organizers of the two Hancock County caucuses said Wednesday that heightened interest in the outcome could result in a high turnout, but they were not sure that it would. They said a high turnout would be good as long as the venues can accommodate all the participants.
“This could be good and this could be bad,” joked Kathy Birdsall, organizer of the eight-town caucus in Hancock. “The more the merrier.”
Birdsall did not have exact figures but said there are more than 1,000 registered GOP voters in the eight towns that are holding their caucus at the local grammar school. There feasibly could be enough Paul supporters at that one caucus to give the congressman the statewide lead, she said.
According to information posted on the Maine Republican Party’s website, the towns of Clinton and Rome in Kennebec County and the town of Castine in Hancock County also have not yet held their caucuses. Clinton and Rome will hold theirs this week, while Castine’s caucus will be on March 3.
The pending results of the remaining Maine caucuses, especially in Washington County, have taken on national interest because of the lack of a clear front-runner in the national race. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is the leader in the nationwide delegate count that eventually will determine who gets the nomination, but has lost the three most recent state contests in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri. The next state contests will be in Arizona and Michigan on Feb. 28.
Follow BDN Reporter Bill Trotter on Twitter at @billtrotter.