Plenty of Maine Republicans continue to support Donald Trump even as others seriously consider other names in then crowded 2024 field.
Calvin Burgess, who lives in Mexico, said he was a Democrat before switching to support Donald Trump in 2016. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

AUGUSTA, Maine — No matter the four indictments or on-again, off-again talk of dumping him for another candidate, Donald Trump remains the favorite to win the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

Plenty of Maine Republicans believe that and continue to support Trump, who won the 2016 election before losing to President Joe Biden in 2020.

“Trump is standing up for us,” said Roxy Hagerman, a Bridgton resident and retired hair salon owner. “Other Republicans all promised but didn’t deliver. He’s a hero to me.”

But at the same time, various Maine Republicans are trying to move on from Trump and seriously consider other names in the crowded 2024 field, revealing a split in Republican voter preferences ahead of next year in a state where Trump won one electoral vote to Biden’s three in 2020.

Interviews with nearly a dozen Maine Republicans from across the state last week after Trump was indicted for the fourth time over allegedly scheming with 18 associates to illegally overturn his 2020 election loss in Georgia, offered a snapshot of the sentiment and struggles some have ahead of 2024.

Trump has clearly led other Republican candidates and found himself neck and neck with Biden in several 2024 polls, and apart from questions raised by some legal scholars, no signs point to the criminal cases affecting his ability to run for or potentially win office next year.

Numerous Maine Republicans recognize Trump’s continued dominance in their party, but they feel Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis or entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy are better choices in next year’s election.

Apart from one voter mentioning acquaintances who like South Carolina U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, none of the Maine Republicans interviewed mentioned other hopefuls such as Chris Christie, Mike Pence or Nikki Haley.

Their reasons for shying away from Trump vary but include concerns that he could hurt Republican candidates in congressional and state races and that a new, younger Republican presidential hopeful should receive the party’s backing to face Biden in 2024.

“I don’t think the legal baggage is the issue at all. I just think people are ready for change,” said Charlie Webster, a former Maine Republican Party chair from Farmington and ex-state lawmaker.

Webster donated to the DeSantis campaign and feels Trump would not be as effective during a second stint as president without enough allies in Congress.

“If he wins, it makes it a little more difficult for Republicans to win at other levels,” Webster said, alluding to elections beyond 2024.

Ramaswamy, a 38-year-old entrepreneur and self-described “anti-woke” activist who founded biotech and investment firms, has risen in polls to the point where allies of DeSantis, 44, have reportedly encouraged the Florida governor to “hammer” Ramaswamy and defend Trump during the first Republican debate Wednesday that Trump plan to skip.

Jon Reisman, a retired University of Maine at Machias economics and public policy professor who lives in the Washington County town of Cooper, doesn’t like Trump, 77, nor Biden, 80, and prefers Ramaswamy.

“He speaks his mind. He’s a good communicator. He’s honest,” Reisman said. “We need people under 70 running for our political offices. We don’t want to become a gerontocracy like the Soviet Union was before it collapsed.”

Reisman said despite Trump having “what’s close to an insurmountable lead,” Ramaswamy could surprise people and win like “a smiling governor from Georgia,” Jimmy Carter, did in 1976.

“Vivek is a supporter of capitalism. That’s something needed desperately,” Reisman added. “And I’m very much in agreement with his position that climate change alarmism is damaging the country.”

Sen. Eric Brakey, a libertarian-leaning Republican from Auburn, also is leaning toward backing Ramaswamy and met him earlier this month at Young Americans for Liberty’s “Revolution” conference.

“He’s speaking about many of the issues that matter to the new generation of Republican leaders,” Brakey said.

Not all Maine Republicans are moving away from Trump.

Tim Devine, a Gorham resident who owns Ossipee Trail Motor Sales, a used car dealership, donated to Trump’s 2024 effort and thinks DeSantis should instead seek the White House in 2028. Trump gives business owners “confidence,” Devine added.

“The guy is sharp as a tack,” Devine said. “He doesn’t need a script. He doesn’t need a teleprompter. Tell me another candidate who can do that.”

Calvin Burgess wore a “Trump 2024” hat while standing outside a Maine Board of Environmental Protection hearing Thursday on proposed electric vehicle rules.

Burgess, a landlord in the Rumford and Mexico area whose wife is Republican state Rep. Tammy Schmersal-Burgess, was a Democrat before switching to support Trump in 2016.

“I always liked his speeches,” Burgess said. “I always thought he was upfront and honest.”

Billy Kobin is a politics reporter who joined the Bangor Daily News in 2023. He grew up in Wisconsin and previously worked at The Indianapolis Star and The Courier Journal (Louisville, Ky.) after graduating...