Dems caucus in Waldo County

By Ethan Andrews and Stephanie Grinnell | Mar 05, 2018
Photo by: Ethan Andrews Maine House District 97 candidate Caitlin Hills, left, speaks during the Belfast Democratic caucus March 4 as fellow Dist. 97 candidate Janice Dodge looks on.

In Belfast, 69 Democrats registered for the caucus March 4 at Troy Howard Middle School, and another 15 or so guests attended, according to organizers.

Other Waldo County caucuses the same day had much smaller turnouts, but events took place in each of the county's 26 towns.

In Winterport, Waldo County Democratic Party Chairman Gary Ennis urged members of the party to "stay engaged" in races at all levels.

Maine House District 97 contenders Janice Dodge and Caitlin Hills introduced themselves at the Belfast event. Both are seeking the seat currently held by Democratic Rep. Erin Herbig, who is running for state Senate.

Dodge spoke about testifying in Augusta, including a trip last June in support of "stand up for students." She said came away with the impression that "many of the leaders are not listening to us."

Hills listed her top three priorities as affordable housing, health care for all and the environment.

"They say it is what it is," she said, "I reject that. It is what we make it."

Herbig also spoke briefly at the Belfast caucus after a stop in Winterport and before heading to Lincolnville.

"I'm going to be your next state senator," Herbig said by way of introduction at each stop.

She said she does not engage in bipartisan arguments and tries to keep things simple. Herbig said her goal is to make Maine a place young people want to live and said "education is the best investment we can make" to create opportunities for success. If elected, she would focus on increasing internet access, decreasing housing costs and increasing economic development, she said.

Surrogates spoke to attendees in Belfast on behalf of gubernatorial candidates Betsy Sweet and Adam Cote. Sweet's representative described her as the only female Clean Elections candidate with a chance. Cote is a combat veteran, who served in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan, and a clean energy advocate.

Others spoke on behalf of District 2 congressional candidates Craig Olsen, a former Islesboro selectman, and Jared Golden, a former active-duty Marine who now serves in the state Legislature, at most locations. Jonathan Fulford, a builder from Monroe, and two-time state Senate challenger, addressed the crowd in Belfast. Lucas St. Clair, lead organizer for the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, was represented by his wife Yemaya, who spoke at the Belfast and Lincolnville caucuses on his behalf.

Melissa Sterry, campaign manager for District 6 district attorney challenger Natasha Irving, spoke in Belfast about the importance of what she called "one of the most overlooked races in the state." Prosecutorial District 6 includes Waldo, Knox, Lincoln and Sagadahoc counties. Irving, who is running against incumbent Republican Jonathan Liberman, hopes to bring community-based restorative justice practices to the District Attorney's Office, Sterry said.

Belfast Democrats chose 10 of a possible 23 delegates for the state convention. The rest will be solicited by the Waldo County Democratic Committee, Neal Harkness, a former chairman of the county committee, said on Sunday.

Harkness said it's typical to come up short on delegates in non-presidential years. During a presidential race, he said, attendance is higher and delegate seats are sought-after because they are pledged to the presidential candidates chosen at local caucuses.

Nominees for all other offices will be determined at primary elections in June.

Winterport Democrats gleaned six of nine delegates for the state convention, as well as an alternate. In Lincolnville, the full slate of nine delegates allotted to the town was filled and one alternate also selected.

Winterport resident Scott Cuddy is running for the District 98 seat currently held by Rep. James Gillway, R-Searsport, to represent Frankfort, Searsport, Swanville and Winterport. He lost to Gillway — who is termed-out after eight years — in the 2016 election and currently is a member of the Regional School Unit 22 Board of Directors.

Addressing the Winterport caucus, Cuddy noted it is permissible for him to continue to serve on the school Board of Directors as well as a state representative; his name will appear on the June primary ballot under both positions.

Cuddy said he's seen a lot of change in the state that he does not like. If elected to the state Legislature, his biggest concern is decreasing the property tax burden. "The state isn't keeping up its end," he said.

In House District 96, which encompasses Belmont, Liberty, Lincolnville, Montville, Morrill, Palermo and Searsmont, Rep. Stanley Paige Zeigler Jr. is running for re-election. He spoke to two dozen residents of Lincolnville during their caucus.

"The dark clouds (in Augusta) are starting to dissipate," he said, referring to Gov. Paul LePage's time in office coming to an end.

Zeigler said he hopes to continue to serve as a state representative to support viable jobs, alternative energy and increased infrastructure. He said he hopes to sponsor creation of a "green bank" that would allow people to purchase solar power systems outright.

Also speaking in Lincolnville, Betty Johnson said she is running for re-election as a County Commissioner.

A planned Green Independent Party caucus in Lincolnville drew a few questions from registered Democrats but no official party caucus was convened.

A Subaru clad in progressive bumper stickers sits outside Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast during the Democratic Party caucus on March 4. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
Yemaya St. Clair, at the Belfast Democratic caucus March 4, stumps for her husband, District 2 congressional candidate Lucas St. Clair of Hampden. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
Winterport Democratic caucus attendees participated in an "online rally" using the hashtag victory starts with _____. (Photo by: Stephanie Grinnell)
Waldo County Democratic Party Chairman Gary Ennis and Rep. Erin Herbig, D-Belfast, share a hug before the Winterport caucus begins. (Photo by: Stephanie Grinnell)
Scott Cuddy speaks to Winterport Democrats March 4. (Photo by: Stephanie Grinnell)
Betty Johnson is running for re-election as County Commissioner. She convened and was chairman of the Lincolnville caucus. (Photo by: Stephanie Grinnell)
Rep. S. Paige Zeigler, D-Montville, speaks about his re-election bid during the Lincolnville Democratic caucus March 4. (Photo by: Stephanie Grinnell)
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