By Rick Smeriglio for SCN — Last Saturday, roughly 114 registered democrats from Seward, Bear Creek and Moose Pass turned out to express their preference for one of three candidates and to convince fellow democrats to switch sides. They held a caucus i.e., a meeting, distinct from a poll or a primary. Only a small amount convincing and switching occurred as Bernie Sanders got 76 percent initially and 79 percent on the second round after participants had had a short time to caucus and make a pitch for one or the other candidate. Hillary Clinton got 19 percent on both rounds while two Rocky De La Fuente supporters and an uncommitted democrat apparently switched to Sanders.
District-wide (District 29, eastern and northern Kenai Peninsula), Sanders garnered 80 percent of the total vote of 220. In Hope, 14 of 20 (70 percent) went for Sanders while the remaining six (30 percent) preferred Clinton. In north Kenai, 72 of 86 (84 percent) stood with Sanders while only 14 (16 percent) stood with Clinton. Statewide, the Senator from Vermont pulled in 80 percent of the total caucus vote of 10,617. Sanders got at least 65 percent, and up to 100 percent of caucus support in each of the 40 districts statewide.
After the caucus, SCN asked random participants why they preferred the candidates they did.
Bob Atkinson of Moose Pass said, “I voted for and will vote for Hillary Clinton in the general election because she has been vetted for 30 years. What they are going to do to Senator Sanders is going to be beyond the pale. It’s going to be beyond anything they did to Senator Kerry. They destroyed his admirable war record … What they are going to dig up on Senator Sanders, right now he is totally unvetted to the general public. So that what they are going to do to him is going to be so disgusting, that I think it’s going to hurt the old man. In the general election, I don’t think he’ll survive.”
Phillip Wade of Seward said, “I voted for Sanders. The reason I did was because he speaks precisely to the domestic issues that have concerned me for decades … I like Hillary a lot but, she has geopolitical management skills, but I feel that she is too much of a friend of the corporations, the money class that runs this country … if we don’t pay attention to the bottom tiers of this country, the people who are struggling, then we aren’t doing what we should be doing for the country … With the huge disparities in wealth, what I see today is exactly like the gilded age.”
Teri Arnold said, “I’m voting for Bernie because Bernie means change and the country needs change in our politics … I truly believe Hillary represents the old style of politics which doesn’t work anymore; it’s clear.”
Caucus volunteer Jennifer Carr said, “I just voted for Bernie and I think the most important trait he has is honesty. I just believe in him above all the others.”
Randy Stauffer, Clinton delegate to the state democratic convention said, “I voted for Hillary Clinton. I have some objections to Bernie; I think he’s a little too old. I think that his policies are a little to far left for a lot of people and I‘m afraid that the Republicans might use that as an advantage in the election. I think that Bernie has not shown that he has the skill and political knowledge to pull off his more extreme views. And finally, Bernie supports the NRA and I definitely do not. Hillary on the other hand is by far the most qualified candidate … she has the political clout and the political knowledge to be able to counteract the Republicans and their obstruction tactics that they have been using for the last seven or eight years.”
Eight volunteers took about two hours to wrangle the good-natured crowd into the Seward library large-conference room and keep them there for the whole caucus process. Caucus goers watched three, short campaign-videos, one for each candidate. The caucus manager used an amplifier to make himself heard.
When asked about the logistics of orderly handling so many people including people who had trouble standing, caucus volunteer and Sanders supporter Fay Herold said, “Caucusing is in person. We had a plan to fan people out into the foyer in case of spillover crowds.”
Participants literally stood with the candidate of their choice as caucus workers counted green cards raised to show support. As with the Republican Party preference poll held three and a half weeks ago, a citizen had to have state-sanctioned registration as a democratic voter to participate in the democratic caucus. About 50 of the 114 participants switched their registration to or initially registered for, the Democratic Party on the day of the caucus.
The caucus process included selecting delegates to the state Democratic Party convention in Anchorage on May 13 through 15. The national Democratic Party will hold its national convention in Philadelphia on July 25 through 28. Nationally, a candidate needs 2,383 delegates to win the democratic nomination. Alaska sends 20 delegates to Philadelphia with 16 elected committed and four appointed uncommitted who can switch allegiance from one candidate to the other. Alaska Democratic Party communications director Jake Hamburg said that statewide, democrats who turned out to caucus, constituted a 19 percent increase from the number who turned out in 2008. Data director for the Alaska Democratic Party, Matt Greene said that in nine of 40 districts statewide, Clinton failed to win any delegates at all to the state convention.
The US presidential election of 2016 will occur on Tuesday, November 8.