A group of Unity Republicans cast their votes Sunday afternoon at the Unity Union Church meeting hall in a straw poll that capped one of the very first caucuses to be held in Maine. But the winner of the poll will remain secret for two more weeks, organizers said, as Republican party members in Maine work to make the state’s scattered caucus system more relevant nationally. The caucus information will be compiled by state party officials, who will release statewide presidential straw poll results on Feb. 11 at a big party meeting at the Portland Regency, according to Susan Russell, the longtime chairperson of the Unity Republicans.
“I think people in the Republican Party were feeling that it just doesn’t matter very much. It’s just a caucus,” she said. Her husband, Bill Russell, told the 20 people present that the statewide effort aimed to change that sense. “This year, they’re trying to get more of a fanfare about who won the Maine caucus,” he said. “They’re trying to get national coverage for the Maine caucus system.”
Maine’s is among the nation’s earliest GOP caucus dates, with town and city committees being encouraged to gather between Feb. 4 and 11. Party officials say that way, they can announce on Feb. 11 who has won. The timing will also give Maine full glare of the nation’s spotlight by being the only state that day to trumpet which candidate has won. The nonbinding votes are the first step toward electing 24 Maine delegates to the Republican National Convention.