Updated 4 p.m. Friday

Waldo County Republicans hold firm after state GOP reconsiders caucus results

Local Republicans have no plans to retract call for state chairman's censure
By Ethan Andrews | Feb 17, 2012

A statement from the Maine Republican Party Feb. 16 that the results of the upcoming Washington County caucus, along with previously omitted figures from a number of towns that already caucused, will figure in the final statewide tallies got a lukewarm reception in Waldo County, where results from 17 towns went missing the first time around.

According to several members of the Waldo County Republican Committee, which took a vote of no confidence and called for the censure of party chairman Charlie Webster earlier this week, there are no plans to withdraw the group's complaint.

Ray St. Onge, chairman of the Waldo County Republicans, said Feb. 17 that the committee had not planned to meet before March 10 — when state party officials have pledged to review the caucus results — and he would not reopen the call for censure discussion unless his fellow party members contacted him to ask for it.

As of Friday morning, none had.

"The vote was what it was," he said. "There was no provision in the motion to say, 'If X occurs, if there's a recount and our votes are counted, then we're not going to move forward with it."

David Parkman, who attended the Waldo County Republican Committee's Feb. 13 meeting and recommended censure as an alternative to a call for resignation, as was originally proposed, said he was glad the party's state officials planned to take the previously-omitted votes into consideration. His group's action was part of the reason, he figured.

"I think they got the word, let's put it that way, or they wouldn't have changed [their position]," he said. "... Personally, I don't think [adding the votes missing from the initial tally is] going to change the outcome, but that's not the point."

Parkman said part of the problem was the timing of the state GOP's Feb. 11 announcement, which was made in advance of some scheduled caucus events around the state.

"I think what happened was they wanted to get it out so that maybe [Maine] might matter," he said. "All the towns and Washington [County] weren't in, and when they screwed up on Waldo, that was a problem."

Since declaring Mitt Romney the statewide winner on Feb. 11, the Maine GOP has come under fire for sticking to a planned announcement schedule despite the fact that the Washington County caucus — scheduled for the day of the announcement — was postponed due to a storm that was forecast for that day.

The debacle intensified when some towns that had caucused before the announcement, which included Waterville in addition to those in Waldo County, were left out of the official tallies.

Maine GOP officials initially stood by the figures released on the day of the announcement and downplayed the importance of the Maine caucus, based on the fact that the results are non-binding and that no national delegates are chosen until the party's state convention in May.

A number of towns knowingly scheduled their events after the official party announcement, suggesting that at least some of Maine's local Republican organizations shared the party view that their caucus amounted to a "beauty pageant."

In past years, this may have been the case. But the 2012 caucus announcement came at a moment when the Republican nomination was, and remains, up for grabs.

A win in Maine for Romney — once considered a clear front-runner, but having just come off a series of losses to Rick Santorum in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri — was reported on the front pages of national newspapers, including the New York Times, which printed a photo of the candidate standing in front of Ron Paul signs.

Paul had campaigned heavily in Maine and lost out to Romney in the official results by 194 votes. When Washington County was found to have been discounted, Paul's supporters were quick to cry foul.

The Paul campaign told USA Today Feb. 15 that it would not seek a recount of the Maine caucus results. But the additional twist of the missing figures in Waldo County and elsewhere drew in a larger audience of disgruntled Republicans who just wanted their votes counted.

The press release issued by the Maine Republican Party on Feb. 16 said Webster called a meeting of the party's Executive Committee and that the group resolved to revisit the official results.

“We have worked diligently to contact town chairmen throughout Maine to reconfirm the results of their individual caucuses. These totals once confirmed will be posted on the Maine Republican Party Web site," he said.

St. Onge said that he was contacted by a state party official and that he resubmitted his results for the 18 towns that participated in the Feb. 4 caucus.

Webster's statement went on to say that the results of the upcoming Washington County caucus would be reviewed at the State Committee meeting on March 10 because it was originally scheduled to occur prior to the Feb. 11 deadline.

According to an Associated Press article published on Feb. 17, Maine GOP officials said they had completed a recount of votes from towns that caucused before Feb. 11 and that the results confirmed that Romney was still the statewide winner. The exact figures were to be released, according to the report, on Friday afternoon, ahead of the Saturday caucus in Washington County.

As of 4 p.m., the updated figures had not been posted to the Maine GOP website.

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