In Maine caucuses, Brown finds way in from edge "Right message, right state," aide says of strong finish.

February 24, 1992|By New York Times News Service

PORTLAND, Maine -- Former Gov. Edmund G. "Jerry" Brown Jr. of California won, at the least, a symbolic victory in Maine's presidential caucuses, vying unexpectedly for first place with former Sen. Paul E. Tsongas of Massachusetts as the final votes were counted.

Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas, originally thought to be Tsongas' main opposition, finished well back, struggling to eke out a distant third place. With 97 percent of the state's

500 or so caucuses reporting last night, Mr. Brown and Mr. Tsongas each had about 30 percent of the vote. Mr. Clinton and "uncommitted" each had about 15 percent.

State Democratic officials said the vote count would take several more days because of the remoteness of some caucus sites and because the results had run so consistently close.

The winner will almost certainly have only a razor-thin edge, so the final results are likely to do little to clear up where the 1992 presidential contest is headed. Still, it seems clear that Mr. Clinton and Mr. Tsongas had stumbled a bit while Mr. Brown, previously regarded as a fringe candidate, had at last found a sounding board for his "outsider" message that money is the root of all political evil.

At stake in Maine are 23 delegates to the national nominating convention. The delegates will be chosen at a May state convention by some 3,000 delegates elected in yesterday's caucuses, which attracted about 15,000 voters.

The former California governor campaigned heavily here after doing better than expected in New Hampshire last week. Besides his outsider message, he stressed environmental issues, especially his opposition to nuclear power. That struck a sympathetic chord in Maine, which has many new residents attracted by its outdoors.

"Jerry Brown had the right message in the right state, and he was the right messenger," Ken Dean, co-director of the Brown campaign here, said as the final votes trickled in.

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