Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 4
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman College precinct sees largest turnout at caucus

“Wouldn’t you rather things be complete chaos like this and there be 150 people than have everything be all organized and there only be 40 people?” asked Democratic organizer Beth Call at last Saturday’s Democratic caucus in Walla Walla County.

Chaos and excitement were the stories at Walla Walla’s Republican and Democratic caucuses which saw record turnout.

“It was kind of messy, but that’s what it’s all about,” said junior Julia Nelson after the close of the Democratic caucus at Garrison Middle School.

“Everyone was so energetic, so excited,” said senior Adrianna Piazzo, who also attended the Democratic caucus.

At least 230 people showed up for the Walla Walla Republican caucus at the airport. Party chairman Jim Johnson estimated the turnout was double that of the last caucus.

At least 973 people came out for the Democratic caucuses at Garrison Middle School in Walla Walla and Columbia High School in Burbank, more than twice the 368 people that voted in the Democratic caucus four years ago.

Washington caucus-goers divide into neighborhood precincts where they sign in and write in the candidate they plan on caucusing for (or ‘undecided’ if they have not yet made up their mind). Within the smaller precincts, participants are then able to argue for a particular candidate or ask questions and discuss the various merits of the different candidates. Caucus-goers can then change their vote if they wish. The votes are tallied and then, several delegates are chosen to represent the precinct based on the breakdown of the caucus-goers votes.

At the Democratic caucus, Whitman students did their fair part to help out with the record turnout. The college precinct, which included those registered to vote from the Whitman address, was clearly the largest turnout with 150 voters, about 100 of whom were Whitman students. Several dozen other students who were registered from off-campus addresses went to different precincts.

Several Whitman students also attended the Republican caucus; however, some students experienced difficulties because the Republicans would not allow those from out of town to change their voting location at the caucus.

For the Washington Republican presidential nominee the primary determines 51 percent of who the state’s delegates go to while the caucus determines the other 49 percent. For Democrats the allocation of the delegates is based 100 percent on the caucuses.

On the Democratic side, Whitman students, Walla Walla County, and Washington as a whole went overwhelmingly for Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton. Five of the six delegates from the college precinct (131 of 150 votes), 136 of the 188 delegates from Walla Walla County and 67.5 percent of delegates statewide went to Obama.

Whitman Obama supporters were excited about their big victory.

“Obama is our best chance of solving the problems we have,” said sophomore Will Canine who was appointed a precinct delegate. “Clinton will mean more of the same politics we’ve had…and most people in our generation have come to see politics as bad in and of themselves. Obama brings a broader more idealistic message that our generation can really relate to,” said Canine who invited over 100 people to the caucus and shuttled at least 20 people to and from the caucus in his car.

Whitman senior Sarith Keo, who was appointed the lone Clinton delegate from the college precinct saw the overwhelming support of Obama, which has been characteristic of young voters nation-wide, as a trend.

“I feel like the election is turning into a popularity contest for Obama…People get swept up in his message but don’t really look at the details of his plan,” said Keo, who prefers Clinton in part for her health care plan and her valuable experience.

“So many people have so many high expectations…it’s setting [Obama] up for disaster, because it’s unrealistic for this country to change as quickly as he advertises,” said Keo.

“This was my first caucus. It was wild, but a lot of fun,” said Keo.

“I loved seeing all the different people,” said sophomore Sam Chasan. “It was like, ‘oh, this is what democracy is all about.'”

On the Republican side, Washington helped reinforce John McCain’s lead in the race, winning 25.6 percent of the vote. Mike Huckabee came in a close second in the state with 23.3 percent. Ron Paul grabbed third with 21.4 percent and Mitt Romney, despite dropping out of the race last Thursday, got 15.3 percent of the delegates.

Within Walla Walla County, however, McCain took 30.8 percent while Paul was a close second with 28.1 percent. Huckabee was a distant third with 18.5 percent of the delegates.

While party organizers on both sides were excited with larger-than-expected turnouts, caucus attendees were only a tiny portion of the 32,000 registered voters in Walla Walla County.

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