Maine ditched presidential caucuses in favor of primaries, but that doesn’t mean caucuses are dead, as party faithful prepare to attend hundreds of them.
Democrats will gather at more than 500 locations Sunday, days after Joe Biden narrowly won the state’s Democratic primary, to organize at the local level.
“Voting isn’t enough. At caucuses, people learn what else they can do so that we get across the finish line in November,” Democratic Chairwoman Kathleen Mara said.
The Maine GOP also will hold many caucuses Sunday. But dozens of towns already held their caucuses because the GOP doesn’t require them to be held the same day.
The GOP is mobilizing to defend Republican President Donald Trump and Sen. Susan Collins, both of whom are up for reelection in November. Democrats, meanwhile, are strategizing about what can be done to unseat both of them.
But first, both parties will use their caucuses to fill out local committees, pull in volunteers, hear from candidates and elect delegates to the state conventions.
Until this year, caucuses were used to also select presidential preference. But they were criticized as disorganized, time consuming and a turnoff to many voters before the Legislature voted to switch to primaries.
But caucus supporters say they’re necessary to build a grassroots organization. They’re held every two years.
“It’s really the grassroots organizing that helps win elections up and down the ticket,” said Jason Savage, the Maine GOP’s executive director. All told, the GOP will hold about 300 caucuses across the state, Savage said.
Margarita Contreni, chairwoman of the Piscatiquis County Democrats, said she expects party members to be fired up to have some clarity in the presidential race, which is now viewed as a two-person race between Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Biden surprised Mainers by narrowly beating Sanders in the state’s primary in which the turnout was heavy with at least 100 municipalities reaching out to the secretary of state’s office about photocopying extra ballots because they’d either run out or feared they would run out.
Such a high turnout in a primary suggests the party faithful are engaged. “People are very much geared up for this election,” Contreni said.