LEWISTON — Texas Sen. Ted Cruz cruised to a GOP victory in the Pine Tree State on Saturday.

Still, Cruz failed to secure more than 51 percent of the total vote, with businessman Donald Trump coming in second and Ohio Gov. John Kasich placing third. Each candidate will be appointed an allotment of Maine’s Republican delegates to the party’s national convention in Cleveland in July.

Cruz, who captured 8,550 votes Saturday, gets 12 delegates, the largest portion, while Trump, with 6,070 votes, gets nine delegates. Kasich gets two delegates with 2,270 votes.

Republican state lawmakers backing Cruz appeared jubilant as they arrived at the Ramada Inn Conference Center to celebrate the day’s voting from 22 caucus locations around Maine.

Party officials were touting record turnouts and a level of GOP engagement they have not seen in recent decades.

“The Republicans broke records today,” WGAN conservative talk radio host Mike Violette told a crowd of about 200 people. Violette served as the master of ceremonies for the party’s caucus celebration event. “This is an exciting night to be a Republican,” he said.

Steve Abbott, the chief of staff for Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, said he was pleasantly surprised by voter turnout in the Portland caucus at Westbrook High School, where about 1,500 voters turned out.

Abbott estimated it was about five times as many people who turned out prior to the change in the Maine GOP’s caucus procedure.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Abbott said. “I’ve been to a lot of Cumberland County caucuses where there were only about 300 people.”

Both he and Alex Willette, a former state lawmaker who now lives in Lewiston and served as a caucus warden Saturday, said they were impressed by the mix of voters, who spanned the generational spectrum.

“It was everything,” Abbott said. “The old regulars were there, in addition to all these new people, too.”

Willette said about 1,400 voters participated in the Androscoggin County GOP’s caucus at Lewiston Middle School.

Later, Maine GOP Chairman Rick Bennett said the number of voters who participated even shocked organizers.  

“Four years ago we had a spirited contest between Mitt Romney and Ron Paul and people will remember that; there were 5,585 votes cast in 2012,” Bennett said. “This year, four years later, we saw a turnout of 18,650 Maine Republicans.”

Bennett said he was most pleased by the fact that Republicans appeared to be growing their ranks and had registered “literally thousands, thousands of newly enrolled registered Republicans in the state of Maine.”

But the implications of a Cruz win will stretch broader than Maine alone, according to supporters who said the victory shows the depth of Cruz’s support in rural America, where conservatives aren’t looking for a showman but a president.

Sen. Amy Volk, R-Scarborough, said she thinks a lot of Cruz’s support came from people who were simply not satisfied with Republican candidate Donald Trump.

“Mainers are feeling more comfortable with a conservative,” Volk said. She said she visited three caucus sites in Southern Maine on Saturday and observed a clear pattern.

“There were people there who were passionate about Trump and there were a lot of people there who were not passionate at all about Trump,” Volk said.

She said the anti-Trump vote in Maine was substantial. “If you look at the percentage of the non-Trump vote, that’s significant,” Volk said.

Cruz’s top man in Maine, Earl Bierman, the state chairman of Cruz for President, said the fact that a Texan could win the northernmost New England state was telling.

“It’s such a huge win because he won in a state that isn’t exactly a conservative Republican bastion,” Bierman said. “Mainers recognize something good in Ted Cruz.”

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.