AUGUSTA (AP) — The Democratic State Committee has set Feb. 10 as the date for the party’s 2008 municipal caucuses that will help choose the next Democratic presidential nominee.

The Feb. 10 date was the first Sunday in the time window set by the Democratic National Committee for Maine to caucus. Maine’s 2004 caucus date was Feb. 8.

Next year’s date was picked Sunday at a state committee meeting in which members also re-elected Benjamin Dudley, a former legislator from Portland, as chairman and elected other officers.

While many states have yet to set official caucus dates, party officials said Maine’s spot on the calendar puts it in good position to play an influential role in presidential politics.

New Hampshire holds the nation’s first primary after the Iowa and Nevada caucuses, and as many as seven states may schedule their caucuses on Feb. 5.

“The early Feb. 10 date ensures that Mainers will have an important voice in selecting the Democratic nominee for president,” Dudley said. “Maine is a significant bellwether for national sentiment, so this caucus date will afford this state the opportunity to affect the outcome of the race for president early on.”

Unlike their Democratic counterparts, Maine Republicans allow their caucuses to be held on various days within a window that in 2004 covered 21 months.

In the 2004 caucuses, 44 percent of Maine Democrats lined up behind John Kerry, with 28 percent for Howard Dean, 16 percent for Dennis Kucinich, 7 percent for John Edwards and 3 percent for Wesley Clark.

At the committee meeting Sunday in Fairfield,

Dudley beat back a challenge from David Bright of Dixmont.

Other officers elected include Marianne Stevens of Kingfield, vice chair; Christopher Rheault of New Gloucester, treasurer; Susan Cook of Bath, secretary, and Patsy Crockett of Augusta, deputy treasurer.

AP-ES-01-22-07 1659EST