Caucus fever: Republican outcome yields a mixed bag

Mirror election coverage

Walt Schrader

Walt Schrader

By ANDY HOBBS, The Mirror

Republicans in District 30 flocked to local caucus locations Feb. 9 to select delegates for their party’s presidential nominee.

Front-runner and Arizona Sen. John McCain maintains an overall lead in Washington state as well as nationally. However, fellow GOP presidential contender Mike Huckabee challenged the vote count and subsequent declaration of McCain as the state’s caucus winner. Further details were not available at press time.

While rogue Texas Congressman Ron Paul ruled out plans to run on a third-party ticket, his grass-roots supporters also made their impression felt at Saturday’s caucuses.

“It’ll be interesting to see who comes out on top,” said Len Englund, a precinct delegate at the Republican caucus at All Saints Lutheran Church. “I liked (Fred) Thompson and defaulted to (Mitt) Romney, but I think McCain will be the nominee.”

Several participants identified themselves as independents, including resident H. David Kaplan.

“I’d love to vote for Harry S. Truman or Teddy Roosevelt,” said Kaplan, who went with McCain. “I’m not exactly thrilled with any of the five candidates.”

The room was filled with tables representing several District 30 precincts. Some tables sat four people while a few had 12 or more. (See accompanying sidebar at bottom of story to learn how a caucus works.)

McCain seemed to have the most support among the room, although Paul’s backers wore their enthusiasm proudly.

Robert Varney, 33, didn’t get involved in politics until this year after learning about fringe candidate Paul’s views on limiting the role of government. Varney credits Paul for at least getting people to pay attention to problems caused by, and faced by, the federal government.

“He really made me take a look at what it means to be American and what the Constitution means,” said Varney, who served in the U.S. Army. “What he’s done is sparked a revolution. He may not win overall, but the message he put out is there.”

Federal Way resident Stephen Alexander also participated in his first caucus and called it a learning experience.

When asked what inspired him to attend, he began counting on his fingers: “Christine Gregoire. Hillary Clinton. Obama. I’ll do everything I can to keep them out of office,” Alexander said.

As the caucus wrapped up, District 30 Republicans chairman Walt Schrader was pleased with the turnout. Schrader, whose face beamed with the excitement of a political junkie, will be a delegate at the March 22 district convention.

“We had a whole group of Ron Paul people,” Schrader said as he collected a stack of manila envelopes. “And they were nice.”

Contact Andy Hobbs: editor@fedwaymirror.com

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Check it out:

30th District Republicans: Group meets 7 p.m. the third Thursday of every month at the Intellipass building, 1925 S. 341st Place, Federal Way. To learn more, call (253) 839-8048 or e-mail waltschrader@yahoo.com. Also visit www.fwgop.org or www.kcgop.org/.

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HOW A CAUCUS WORKS:

Residents from each precinct gather at their respective tables at a district caucus location. Residents discuss their preferences on candidates.

The overall goal is for each precinct’s participants to pick two or more delegates to vote on behalf of the group at the District 30 convention. The caucus allows participants to sway fellow precinct voters to support their candidate. Voters can also remain uncommitted.

At the district convention, the number of delegates is narrowed down. The process continues at the county and state levels. In the end, those delegates participate in the national nomination process.

In 2008, all Washington state delegates on the Democrat side will be determined at the caucus; the Feb. 19 primary vote will not yield any Democratic delegates. On the Republican side, half of the delegates were chosen during the caucuses, and the other half will be decided at the Feb. 19 primary election. The primary will also cost the state about $10 million.

To learn more, visit http://www.washingtonvoter.org/default.asp?id=199/.


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