I arrive in one of Wescott Junior High School's cafeterias and am surprised to see only three people have arrived. The doors were scheduled to open at 10a, and the parking lot surrounding the school is packed.
I learn that two of the three present are Westbrook Republican City Committee officials: Martha Day, the chairwoman of the city party, and Jo Ann Calderbank, the secretary. The sole voter, Lee Swanson, is soon put to work unstacking the plastic chairs and sliding them beneath the twelve maroon tables. I also learn that the parking lot is overflowing due to a big high school swimming meet that had been postponed from last night. Jo Ann Calderbank hopes a lack of parking won't discourage caucus-goers from coming in.
I talk with Annie Donaldson, a campaign worker for the Romney campaign. She is the first candidate surrogate to arrive and is dressed smartly in jeans and a charcoal blazer. A gold "MITT" pin is affixed to her blazer. She mills around the room to talk with the ten or so voters who are otherwise passing the time by reading the various pamphlets (Maine Republican Party platform, Westbrook Republican by-laws, the caucus agenda).
Two twenty-somethings, Nate Morrison and Chris LeConte, hang out by the vending machines and ruminate on the possibilities of the caucus. Each think Romney, McCain, and Paul have good chances, but Morrison says he's supporting Huckabee even though he might be the only one.
Donning a white polo shirt with a blue "Summers for Congress" patch sewn onto the shirt's breast, Bill Holmes circulates petitions for voters to sign so that Senator Susan Collins, Charlie Summers, and Nancy Larsen will each have their names on the ballot for the Republican primaries in June. Collins is seeking re-election to the U.S. Senate, Summers is seeking election to the U.S. Congress, and Larsen is seeking election as a County Commissioner.
Enough people are filing in that Jo Ann Calderbank is beginning to worry that the cafeteria might be too small. She says she's been reminded a couple different times by the Westbrook School Department that the cafeteria's capacity is 100. She also jokes that someone told her that this is Westbrook, she won't have to worry about the room's capacity for a Republican caucus.
Recently-elected City Clerk Lynda Adams is stationed outside the cafeteria with the voting rolls. According to the count of Adams's fellow pollworkers, Peggy Day and Jayne Barnes, sixty-five people have registered. Jo Ann Calderbank can ease her worrying.
Martha Day stands in front of the seated caucus-goers and opens the caucus.
Jo Ann Calderbank and Martha Day are unanimously elected with a show of hands as the caucus's secretary and chair, respectively.
Martha Day explains that the presidential preferences of the caucus-goers are not binding and hopes to be out of here within one hour. I don't think too many are disappointed with her goal.
Bill Holmes writes the names of the twenty-four delegates to the Maine Republican Convention on an easel. Westbrook has been given twenty-five delegates and twenty-five alternates for the event.
George Rodrigues continues collecting signatures for his petition to get Dean Scontras's name on the ballot for the June primary. Scontras is facing off against Charlie Summers.
Ray Richardson motions and Janet Cargill seconds the approval of the twenty-four nominess for delegates. The delegates are approved unanimously with a show of hands.
Martha Day, Chris Collins, and Franz Howner have been nominated to be the chair of the Westbrook delegation to the Maine Republican Convention. Mark Gartley and Bill Holmes have also been nominated, but they each decline. Martha Day is elected the chair of the delegation with 17 of the 24 votes.
Nominations and approvals for Westbrook's representatives to Westbrook City Committee and Cumberland County Republican Committee are efficiently executed.
There's some confusion as to whether the nominated poll-workers for upcoming elections need to reside in the wards in which they'll be working. The nominations are tabled until the confusion is resolved.
Dave Nichols of New Hampshire addresses the caucus-goers on why they should vote for Gov. Mike Huckabee. Essentially, Nichols's argument is that Huckabee is the best salesman for conservative ideas and policies. He then lists the reasons why Huckabee is the true conservative.
Ben Gilman of Gorham stumps for Sen. John McCain. Gilman reads the laundry list of Maine endorsements McCain has garnered (Sen. Olympia Snow, Sen. Susan Collins, former Maine Gov. John "Jock" McKernan, etc.), but says the endorsement of Westbrook's former Republican state senator (and his mom), Carolyn Gilman, is the most remarkable reason to vote for McCain. He then lists the reasons why McCain is the true conservative.
Chris Collins of Westbrook opens his argument for Congressman Ron Paul by saying that you can vote for three things: A tax-and-spend Democrat, a borrow-and-spend Republican, or Ron Paul. He then lists the reasons why Paul is the true conservative.
Annie Donaldson lists the endorsements Romney's gotten from Mainers (former gubernatorial candidate Chandler Woodcock and a few others that slip my mind) and list the reasons why Romney is the true conservative.
Senator Susan Collins peeks her head into the caucus and quietly greets caucus-goers while Donaldson finishes her speech.
Martha Day alters the schedule to allow Senator Collins to speak before the presidential polling takes place.
Sen. Susan Collins asks for the help of the Westbrook Republicans in her upcoming contest against Rep. Tom Allen. She then asks the crowd who they think is MoveOn.org's favorite candidate. A few call out Sen. Barack Obama's name, and Sen. Collins says that that's who she thought, too. However, she says, she just learned that MoveOn.org's favorite candidate (according to campaign contributions) is, in fact, Tom Allen. Collins then touts her support for small businesses and her perfect voting record, while contrasting that record with Tom Allen's record (14% rating from a small-business group, 19 missed votes while attending Hollywood fundraisers). The speech was what can be expected to rally the Republican troops: MoveOn.org this, Barbra Streisand that. It lasts about five minutes, and she leaves shortly thereafter.
Ballots for the presidential preferences are collected and counting begins.
George Rodrigues speaks on behalf of Dean Scontras and describes him as a social, fiscal, and national security conservative. Another mention of MoveOn.org, this time in relation to Ethan Strimling and Chellie Pingree.
Bill Holmes addresses the caucus on behalf of Charlie Summers, Susan Collins, and Nancy Larsen.
Martha Day announces the results of the presidential preference poll: Romney, 39 votes; Paul, 17 votes; McCain, 15 votes; and Huckabee, 4 votes. And apparently three Westbrook Republicans came just to enjoy the thrilling processes of nominations and approvals, because there were three undecided votes.
John C.L. Morgan