MAINE HAS, among many other things, early falls, long winters and late springs. In recognition of these facts, Maine, until 20 years ago, always held its general election in September to avoid blizzards and to assist voter turnout. As evidence of the headlong rush into national conformity, Maine now holds its general election in November along with everybody else.
But Maine Democrats, with total disregard for both calendar and climate, have scheduled their municipal caucuses (to choose delegates for the May state convention) for Sunday, Feb. 10. This exercise has taken on new importance because Maine will represent the first "test" between President Carter and Sen. Kennedy in the challenger's regional neighborhood.
But first, let's look at the Maine system and what makes its special. In Maine, there are 496 "eligible electoral units" that can hold caucuses. An eligible electoral unit is basically what people elsewhere would call a precinct. Some of Maine's larger places, like Portland and Lewiston, have several electoral units. But every place in the state, regardless of its size or number of Democrats, is eligible to hold a caucus to send at least one delegate to the state convention. Every place is theoretically an electoral unit.
In 1976, only 375 of these eligible units held caucuses -- which drew a total of about 6,800 Democrats. Already this year, 425 electoral units have issued a call to caucus. What is interesting is that some of the places that have issued calls to caucus are only that -- places. They have names like No. 14 Plantation and No. 21 Plantation. These are remote, rural spots where are few as 15 or 20 people live -- live, not vote. It is probably safe to say that the vast majority of these new caucuses will be held in places where the Carter campaign or the Kennedy campaign (most probably the former) identified one strong supporter and persuaded him to call a caucus, which is perfectly legal under party rules.
What this all means is that, while the formula to apportion the 2,247 delegates to the state convention is based on the number of Democratic votes cast in each place in the last governor's race, every place, regardless of voting statistics, gets a minimum of one delegate.
Under the formula, Portland can send 135 delegates to the state convention, Lewiston can send 101 delegates and Biddeford can send 55 delegates. For the campaign that finds itself in trouble in a place like Biddeford, the answer is, then, to recruit one or two solid supporters in a place like No. 14 Plantation and get its one delegate, to whom it's entitled under the party rules, to go to the state convention pledged for your candidate. You do this in a couple of dozen places with a few dozen supporters and you have completely neutralized any opponent's edge in the Maine cities.
Out of 3,331 delegates to next summer's Democratic National Convention, Maine will provide 22. And who knows? One of them may even be from No. 14 Plantation.
But where is Gov. Brown? The other California presidential candidate has not been seen or heard much since his univited (and unsuccesful) coalition with Uncommitted in the Iowa caucuses. Reports from Sacramento revealed that Mr. Brown apparently disliked not only the executive mansion but also the capital city itself. Between Sept. 14 and Jan. 10, the governor spent less than one full week in Sacramento.
So where is he? you ask. As recently as last week Mr. Brown, for once one of the pack, was in New England. It was in Maine that he offered his interesting thoughts on President Carter's propsed draft-registration plan. Predictably unorthodox, Gov. Brown urged registration for 40- and 50-year-olds "to let those who conceived this hare-brained scheme live under its mandate."
Gov. Brown, no sunshine patriot, obviously would not exempt himself from becoming, at some future date, G.I. Jerry, because on April 1m he will celebrate his 42nd birthday. Our readers in Sacramento may wish to make note of that date and mail their governor a greeting. For their informtion, the Louisana primary is on April 5 and the Pennsylvania primary is on April 22.