Feb. 1, 1976: Former Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter, relatively unknown nationally until a few months earlier, collects more delegates in the Maine Democratic Party’s presidential caucuses than all the other candidates combined.

His victory contrasts sharply with the results of a Gallup poll about a week earlier, in which only 4 percent of voters nationally identified him as their first choice for president. That changed dramatically when Carter won the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 26.

Carter, who had been the keynote speaker at the Maine Democrats’ statewide convention in 1974, flies to Portland on the night of the Maine caucuses to celebrate his victory with supporters. Maine is the first state on the East Coast and the third nationally to hold its party caucuses.

Carter is elected president in November, defeating incumbent President Gerald Ford, a Republican. However, Ford wins a majority of Maine’s votes in the general election, as does Ronald Reagan in 1980 when Carter runs unsuccessfully for re-election.

Joseph Owen is a retired copy desk chief of the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. He can be contacted at: [email protected]

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