News

OBAMA SWEEPS TO WIN

One South End precinct used a stairwell to overcome the cramped conditions in the commons at South Whidbey High School during Saturday’s Democratic caucus in Langley. A Republican caucus in Freeland attracted a much smaller crowd. - David Welton / The Record
One South End precinct used a stairwell to overcome the cramped conditions in the commons at South Whidbey High School during Saturday’s Democratic caucus in Langley. A Republican caucus in Freeland attracted a much smaller crowd.
— image credit: David Welton / The Record

BY MICHAELA MARX WHEATLEY, SPENCER WEBSTER, PATRICIA DUFF, BRIAN KELLY AND JEFF VANDERFORD

South Whidbey Record

RICK WOOD AND BRIDGET BUDGILL

Stanwood/Camano Island NEWS

The stairwell leading to the cafeteria at North Whidbey Middle School was packed with bodies. Hundreds of people swirled through the room, looking for a seat in a tuneless game of musical chairs.

Marshall Goldberg, chairman of the Island County Democratic Central Committee, could contain his glee no longer.

“We’ve got a revolution on our hands!” Goldberg shouted to anyone within earshot.

The massive turnout was a scene repeated from north to south, east to west as energized voters packed seven caucuses across Island County.

Organizers said the turnout shattered previous records, and many of those who came out to pick their party’s presidential nominee said they were inspired by a chance at change.

Island County voters went big for Barack Obama during Saturday’s caucuses across Whidbey and Camano islands.

With the Democratic party set to ignore next week’s primary ballot — and use the results of Saturday’s caucus instead to pick delegates to select a presidential candidate — the caucuses were more important to the Democrats than the Republicans. Republicans will select roughly half of their delegates based on the results of Saturday’s caucuses across Washington, with the other half coming from the Feb. 19 vote.

In Island County, John McCain won 34.2 percent of the vote. Obama earned 68 percent of the vote, Hillary Clinton, 31.5 percent.

Statewide, Obama earned 67 percent of the Democratic vote, while Clinton finished with 31 percent. Obama will receive 21,629 delegates, while Clinton will get 9,992. The number of delegates will decline as the party conducts conventions at the district and state levels later this year.

For Republicans, McCain was declared the state winner after receiving 25.4 percent of the vote.

Mike Huckabee took 23.8 percent.

There were a few complaints after the caucuses from supporters of the second-place finishers.

Huckabee is challenging the results, and his campaign complained that the race was called prematurely in McCain’s favor with only 93.3 percent of the caucus votes counted.

The complaint — which attracted national media coverage — had Republican party officials scrambling to check their numbers earlier this week.

“Basically, we’re still counting, verifying and double-checking,” said Republican spokesman Patrick Bell.

Bell said that on Saturday night, with slightly more than 87 percent of the vote in, Esser was confident that it appeared John McCain had won the precinct caucuses.

“The important thing is, if the numbers and trend had gone to Governor Huckabee or Rep. Paul, the chairman would have called it for them,” Bell said.

Bell said some caucuses were held in people’s living rooms and reporting results wasn’t as quick as the party would like, especially with the media attention.

There was harsh criticism, as well, over the Democratic caucus in Langley. Some complained voters cast ballots in the wrong precincts, and that participants had not been checked to make sure they were registered voters.

Unlike the Democrat side, there was no majority winner among the Republican candidates. Ron Paul got 20.7 percent of the vote, while Mitt Romney - who dropped out of the race last week — got 16.7 percent.

Regardless, Republicans in Island County were happy with the numbers they saw this weekend.

“Not many showed up in 2004 so this is a very good turnout,” said Linda Haddon, an Oak Harbor Republican who is running this November to unseat state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen.

“I found folks were excited to be here today, not just interested,” Haddon said. “For a long time the silent majority has been too silent. Not anymore.”

South Whidbey Democratic Caucus

While some polls predict the next president is likely a Democrat, a bitter aftertaste of the two close elections in 2004 and 2000 left South End voters leery of surprises.

“We can’t afford to have it stolen from us,” said Gary Magdalik, who caucused in the Sandy Point Precinct. “We have to go to the streets if they steal this one from us again.”

Ken Card said people shouldn’t wait to make their voices heard.

“We need to get into the streets before that happens,” he said.

Electability of the candidate was one of the issues that echoed trough the various caucuses.

And many South End voters believe Obama is their man. He got nearly 72 percent of the vote during Saturday’s caucus at South Whidbey High School.

Many argued that Obama was likely to pull in swing voters and independents.

Others said Clinton — with her many enemies on both ends of the political spectrum — could cause some disgruntled Democrats not to vote.

“All of us would be happy with either one of the candidates. But we want the Democrats to win,” Bob Mills said to Sandy Point voters.

“Barack Obama has a better chance. With Hillary as our candidate, they (the Republicans) have a chance to win,” he added.

Clinton supporters stressed the New York senator’s experience and great reputation with leaders of other countries.

However, the issues that generally brought people out were universal healthcare, stopping the war in Iraq and the economy.

The caucus brought 1,444 South End voters to the high school, not counting the many children ranging from newborns to teenagers, and other observers who sported Obama T-Shirts or held Clinton balloons but did not vote.

“I am guessing we have over 1,000 people here. That’s substantially more than four years ago,” said Duane Fulgham, the caucus coordinator. “I guess we can thank George Bush for that, too.”

Moments later Fulgham announced that the Republican caucus in Freeland had drawn just over 100 people.

The crowd again cheered and some bursted into laughter.

However, the massive crowds also led to some massive confusion as some caucuses where relocated from the commons to the auxiliary gym, the nook in front of the auditorium or other areas in the high school building.

One woman complained to Fulgham after the caucus was over that she didn’t find her caucus until after the vote was final. All Fulgham could do was apologize. The woman left visibly upset.

Eileen Jackson, a Clinton supporter, said the sea of voters resulted in chaos.

“We have a whole list of complaints,” she said.

At around 1 p.m., “a thundering herd of Obama supporters descended on the caucus all at once,” she said. “That’s when you couldn’t even move.”

People couldn’t find their precincts, some people voted in one precinct and they were told that they were in the wrong precinct and voted in another, Jackson recalled.

Jackson added no one checked IDs or voter registration cards.

“There was no way to check if they were in the right precinct or even registered voters,” she said.

She also said sign-up sheets became scarce.

“I had to go three times to have enough sheets,” Jackson said, who votes in the Lone Lake Precinct. Lone Lake was the largest precinct represented Saturday, with 172 voters.

The large turnout and location discriminated against another demographic, Jackson said.

“I spoke with a lot of people from Brookhaven in Langley. There was no handicapped parking. It had filled up by 12:15 p.m.,” she said. “Disabled, elderly people - they weren’t able to vote in this caucus.”

She recommended that all who didn’t get to vote or felt their voices weren’t heard to send in their ballot for the primary election on Feb. 19. Jackson also notified the county auditor and Washington’s Clinton campaign chair.

However, for many the caucus was a positive experience.

Four generations of one South End family attended the Saratoga caucus. Kimberly Cerra brought her daughter Jeannie, 13, as an observer. Her mother and grandmother also came. Her sister Dayle Gray also attended with her husband and their son Cameron was later appointed to be a delegate for the Clinton supporters.

“This time it mattered,” said Cerra, who was attending her first caucus.

She was also happy to accompany her 90-year-old grandmother who wanted her vote counted for Clinton, who would be the first female president.

“My grandmother is such a Clinton supporter. She really wanted to come,” she added.

For Cameron Gray, 17, it was not only his first caucus, but his first voting experience.

He will vote for president for the first time in November when he turns 18. And now he will be a delegate at the Island County Democratic convention representing the Clinton supporters in his precinct.

“She’s really intelligent. Lots of experience,” he said of Clinton. “This is really important. And she has a real plan for healthcare.”

Celia Procopio, 17, will be another first-time voter in November. Obama was clearly her favorite.

“It’s definitely Obama, but I’d still vote Democrat if he isn’t the nominee,” she said. “I am totally convinced he is the best. He is intelligent and I believe he can run our country.”

Procopio radiated excitement about her first experience with democracy in action.

“I am really excited. I just think it’s so important to contribute to my country,” she said. “I always really wanted to vote.”

The South Whidbey High School senior said the interest in the presidential race has swamped the high school and many of her peers came out to observe or have their vote counted.

Sherrie and Chris Short caucused in the Lone Lake precinct.

“I am still in between Obama and Hillary,” Chris Short said.

Sherrie Short proudly wore a Hillary sticker.

“His vote might still change. Mine doesn’t,” she said.

Despite her support for the Clinton camp, Short said she will vote for a Democratic president no matter who the nominee is.

“I’d like to vote for Ron Paul. I like many of his beliefs, but he’s a Republican,” she added.

The retired couple said they haven’t missed a presidential election since they’ve been registered.

“We vote in every election,” Sherrie Short said.

“Our son votes and he lives in Switzerland,” she added.

South End voters supported Illinois Sen. Barack Obama with a overwhelming 71.61 percent of the vote.

Obama got 1,034 votes, Clinton had 397 votes, 15 remained uncommitted.

Two precincts favored Obama by a 4-1 margin over Clinton, but most were closer to the 2-1 statewide ratio.

Obama won 10 precincts with more than 70 percent of the vote. The closest battle was in Freeland, where Clinton took 41 percent of the vote, and Obama, 57 percent.

In the 1992 presidential primary, Bill Clinton nearly split the Freeland vote with Jerry Brown. Clinton won the precinct with 100 percent of the vote in 1996. Al Gore won the precinct by a slight margin in 2000 over Bill Bradley.

-Michaela Marx Wheatley, South Whidbey Record

South Whidbey Republican Caucus

Initially, Island County Republican party officials thought the rooms in Grigware Hall at Trinity Lutheran Church would be big enough.

But after a short lull, hundreds of people packed the hallways and rooms, forcing officials to change their game-plans.

“I anticipated less than a 100 people,” said Mary Jane Aurdal, Island County State Committeewoman. “We have way, way more.”

Aurdal took the turnout in stride.

“Every year there is a high profile presidential election, people come out. This is not unusual.”

Party officials said 155 people participated in the caucus.

Organizers ran out of name tags and questionnaires.

“We’ve just been overwhelmed with people. We still have people who are coming in. We’re running out of room to take everybody,” she said.

McCain collected 49 votes and finished with 31 percent of the vote.

Mitt Romney was second with 24 votes, or 15 percent. Huckabee won 16 votes, or 10 percent, while Ron Pual finished with 13 votes and 8 percent.

A total of 51 voters, or 32 percent, remained undecided. Duncan Hunter and Fred Thompson picked up one vote each.

For some of the McCain voters, there was no other option.

“My vote will be consistent; McCain, McCain, McCain,” said Andrew Pringle of Freeland.

“First of all, he’s lived long enough to be of great wisdom, he’s served well and he reaches across the aisle to the other party and that is important. He knows more about national security than anyone else running for president.

“He’s experienced it and he’ll do it right,” Pringle said.

Immigration was the top issue at the South End GOP caucus, though. More than 40 other people selected secure borders on a platform survey as their number one issue.

Wayne Flaaten of Greenbank said that national security extends beyond the country’s own borders.

“The most important issue in this campaign is national security because of what we face as a nation, and what western civilization faces as far as the Islamic terrorists,” Flaaten said.

“National security is an important issue to me,” agreed Barbara Cook of Greenbank. “I would believe government’s first duty is to keep the citizens safe.”

“Winning the war in Iraq is number one for me,” Cook added. “A strong military, winning the war in Iraq and winning the war on terror; those are important things to me.”

Huckabee was the second most popular Republican presidential candidate.

Janet Piehler of Langley praised Huckabee for pro-life views.

“For me, the most important issue is life and so I am pro-life. So with the platform, I want to elect someone because it is the area that makes a difference whether life is lost or not,” she said. “Right now I am looking forward to Mike Huckabee.”

Piehler did not go to the caucus alone. She brought her son Evan along so that he could experience the political process as well.

“I home school and so I am teaching three of my kids how it works. My older kids worked on the campaign for Jack and Norma Metcalf, so we’ve been involved for many years,” she said.

“I think it is important to be civic minded and so I want to show my kids how to vote, what they are supposed to do to vote. I think it is important to be active in voting and active within the community,” she said.

For some who filled the hallways at Grigware Hall, it was their first caucus. But most had voted before.

“This is my first caucus,” Flaaten said. “It was a learning experience and it is quite exciting to see this level of interest and enthusiasm. I think there is enthusiasm because there are critical issues at stake in the upcoming elections such as national security and health care,” Flaaten said.

“I have voted in elections since 1948, every single one and I am 81,” added Pringle.

“It is exciting and it is the American way of life. I hope the Democrats are having as much fun as we are and I am sure they are,” he added.

McCain won nine of 17 precincts, and battled to a draw with Huckabee in the Clinton Precinct and Romney in Maxwelton.

Romney won the Possession Point Precinct, an area that George Bush won by one vote over John McCain in 2000.

Half or more of the voters in five precincts — Clinton, Deer Lake, Double Bluff and Langley 2 — were undecided.

The largest group of undecided voters were in the Greenbank Precinct, where 83 percent of voters refused to pick a candidate. Romney and Huckabee split the vote of those who picked a preference.

There were no results posted for the Langley 1 Precinct, after no Republicans stepped forward to caucus Saturday for that precinct, which includes the eastern edge of the city and downtown.

- Spencer Webster, South Whidbey Record

Central Whidbey Democratic Caucus

Democrats came out in droves.

Throngs of progressives filed in through the glass front doors of the Coupeville Middle School Performing Arts Center Saturday, but the scene was less chaotic than other caucuses in Island County.

Caucus coordinator Doug McKee and his helper Linda McKee checked in voters and sent them to their respective precinct gathering places. Maps lined the walls of the lobby showing participants in which precinct they belonged.

Before the voting, there was a general din of excitement that could be heard within the main hall and poured out of the classrooms where some of the smaller precincts were housed.

Savannah Randall is an almost 18-year-old Obama supporter who carried a “Ba-ROCK the Caucus” poster. She recently moved to the island from Las Vegas, Nev. and has seen Obama speak three times.

Speaking as if she were talking about her favorite rock star, Randall was pumped up and ready to cast her very first presidential vote for the man whom she calls “amazing.”

Obama was a runaway winner at the Coupeville caucus. Of those attending, 69 percent voted for the senator from Illinois.

Out of the 15 precincts represented, all but one — Scenic Heights — chose Obama over Clinton in the final tally.

Rob Davison of the Hastie Lake Precinct was in the minority.

“I have a gut feeling about Hillary,” he said.

But Davison was quick to add that he thought both candidates were “great” and he thought it will be interesting to find out who will end up on the November ticket as a candidate for vice president.

Chris Farnam is a San De Fuca voter who came out strongly for Obama.

“My biggest criticism of Hillary is that she voted for the war,” Farnam said.

“My friend was saying it’s easy for Obama because he wasn’t in the Senate when the war vote happened. But Obama appeals to both my parents, who are independents, and they won’t go for Hillary. They like Obama.

“I have many reasons to vote for Obama, but a good one is that the independents like him,” Farnam said.

Ron Sharp, also from San de Fuca, had his own reasons for liking Obama.

“He’s more able to think outside the box. The rest of the world will have a better view of the U.S. with him,” Sharp said.

“He has more vision of the way things could be.”

Obama clearly got the nod from the younger people at the caucus, including some too young to cast ballots.

Three teens from the Fort Nugent precinct carried posters that said, “Caucus for Barack-US” and “No coronation for the queen. Obama!”

Madison Petersen, 11, said Obama is a step forward, not backward.

“He represents our youth,” Madison said.

Kate Ross, 14, looked at a vote for Obama as one for fresh blood in the White House.

“He’d be taking us away from the same two families who have run the country the longest,” she said.

Her friend Kate Petersen, also 14, added, “He’s the end of the war in Iraq and cares about the people more than money.”

Nearby, Dr. Louise Grindstaff sat poised at her precinct table waiting for the vote and was seemingly unfazed by the general excitement and chaos that swirled around her.

The doctor is a senior who had voted in more presidential elections than she could count.

“Hillary Clinton represents my values,” she said.

Grindstaff mentioned education, healthcare, helping the middle class and working with seniors and young people as her top issues.

“She wants to send people to college,” Grindstaff said.

In the commons area, Greenbank and Lagoon Point voters formed the largest of the groups. The anticipation of the crowd was palpable as they sat facing a podium where precinct committee officer Mark McDonald of Greenbank took the mic.

“We got you here a little early because Democrats are always late,” he said.

McDonald explained the process of the caucuses and spoke about the uncommitted votes.

Delegates who go the the national convention are usually committed to a candidate, he warned. And people shouldn’t be shy about speaking out for their presidential pick.

“This is not a secret ballot,” he said. “It’s just like Congress — you have to stand up for what you say.”

Each person had one minute to speak on behalf of their precinct for either Obama or Clinton. Doris Newkirk of Greenbank went first.

“Everyone knows what her skeletons are already,” she said.

Clinton is automatically one step ahead of Obama, Newkirk said, and added that she liked Clinton’s healthcare plan, one that it is very different than Obama’s.

Charlene Cliff of Greenbank also stood up to speak for Clinton. Cliff spoke of Clinton’s experience and touted her proud, assertive and strong character. People want to vote certain that the person who gets the job is ready.

“Hillary Clinton is ready,” Cliff said.

But Cliff also said that she is proud that the party has two terrific candidates to choose from.

“And if I end up having to pull a lever for Obama, I will do it with pride,” she said.

Thom Quinn of Greenbank spoke for Obama.

“You understand that America has never stooped so low as it has in the last eight years,” Quinn started. “The only thing that can stop this man is a bullet.”

The crowd gasped.

“The Clintons have been in office for over 20 years,” Quinn continued. “So have the Bushes. It’s time for a change.”

Back in the performing arts center, other potential delegates did not have the luxury of a microphone and precinct groups had to compete with each other over the consistent clamor of the room.

At the Admiralty Precinct table, John Deegan was straining to have his voice heard for Clinton.

“Everybody loves Obama,” he said. “But when your house is on fire you get a fireman. Hillary has more experience. This is not the time to vote with your heart.”

Deegan finished with a quote he heard from The Los Angeles Times: “Obama is like a poem, lyrical and inspiring. Clinton is like an essay; reasoned and informed.”

The tight crowd hovered around him cheered.

Other listeners gathered around more closely, struggling to hear.

Standing a bit outside the main circle and taking in the scene, senior voter Harry Lyman said he came to experience the process but that he was “deeply uncommitted” to either candidate.

Gerry Goltz stood on a bench above the Admiralty crowd holding up a sign with his name on it so people would vote for him as a delegate.

“This election is important to me,” Goltz said. “It’s unfortunate that my first vote for president was Barry Goldwater, which was a mistake.”

Everybody laughed.

“Obama is our future,” Goltz said and stepped down.

Vying for his chance, Eric Tremblay, a political blogger, said he was very dedicated to Obama and that he had never been so committed to any political candidate before.

“I’d like to be a delegate,” Tremblay said at last.

Linnane O’Connor, 25, was the youngest of the potential delegates at the Admiralty table.

O’Connor, who grew up in Coupeville, said that the last eight years politically had been a disappointment to her and that she needed to participate in the democratic process as much as possible.

“We need a dramatic change,” O’Connor said.

Although O’Connor said she was an Obama supporter, she had a good feeling about both candidates and would vote for Clinton as readily as she would for Obama.

“Ever since I could remember I wished there could be a woman as president,” O’Connor said.

“But now I feel like I needed to look deeper beyond that and look at what the candidates stand for and can produce in terms of real change. Obama will make changes regardless of the obstacles. I think Clinton will worry too much about holding on to her power instead of taking the necessary risks to be an effective leader,” she said.

Organizers of the caucus said the turnout was more than double in some precincts over the last caucus.

“I’m proud of this party,” Sheila Rhyne said.

Rhyne said it was the kids coming out to participate that lifted her spirits about this year’s caucus the most and that it was the young people who inspired her to choose Obama.

“They didn’t talk about the issues at all,” said Rhyne. “It’s all charisma with them. Obama to them has the ability to energize, inspire and unite.”

And that was all Rhyne needed to hear.

A total of 906 voters attended the Central Whidbey Democratic Caucus. Of those attending, 69 percent voted for Obama.

Obama finished by winning 14 of 15 precincts, and took seven by more than 70 percent of the vote.

His best showing came in West Beach, where he won 83 percent of the vote.

Clinton won Scenic Heights with 58 percent.

- Patricia Duff, South Whidbey Record

North Whidbey Democratic Caucus

Even if everyone would have shared their seat, there still would not have been enough places for people to sit at the Democratic caucus on North Whidbey.

Organizers had pulled out nearly 250 chairs for caucus goers at North Whidbey Middle School in Oak Harbor. But more than 500 people — from first-time voters, to Navy retirees, to moms toting babies — came out to pick the person they want in the White House.

Obama was the clear favorite.

“I wanted to be a part of history,” said Suzie Best, a voter in Oak Harbor Precinct 5.

“We have a black man running for president, we have a woman running for president, and we have a warmonger running for president. I want to be here for that change,” she said.

Best said she wants Obama on the November ticket. But it wasn’t just one issue that inspired the disabled woman to leave her home in central Oak Harbor to caucus.

“The issues of changing, getting our soldiers out of Iraq, having our economy suit the people that need it,” she said.

There is also another war that needs attention, Best said.

“Our soldiers need to be here building America instead of rebuilding Iraq. The war of destruction happened here in America when those hurricanes hit.”

The war in Iraq was seldom mentioned at the caucus, however. Most people said the chance to change politics in Washington, DC was the reason they came.

Mark Colston was attending his first caucus with his 14-year-old son Matthew.

“This is one of our very first occasion to caucus,” said Colston, a Silver Lake resident who just retired from the military. “I just wanted him to see the whole process.”

Colston said he was voting for Obama.

“I’m tired of the same old Washington game. I finally feel like I have a say. And I don’t agree with Barack completely, but there are a lot of things I do agree with him on.”

He was surprised at the number who came out to caucus Saturday.

“This is wall-to-wall people, and it’s great. It makes me feel I’m not alone and everyone is ready for something different.”

Voters began showing up for the caucus about 90 minutes early. People were still coming in after the caucus started at 1:30 p.m.

While there were some familiar faces at the caucus, including Island County Treasurer Linda Riffe, there on her 42nd wedding anniversary, many in the massive crowd were new to the caucus process.

Becky Jensen, a voter in Oak Harbor Precinct 8, was carrying her son Zackery. He turned a month old on Monday.

“I’ve got to make sure the world is a good place for my children,” the mother of three said.

Later, Jensen stood up to lobby her precinct to pick Obama over Clinton.

“The U.S. needs someone to rally behind,” she said.

Voters should pick a candidate that can get elected in November, Jensen added.

“How can she get things done if she can’t get into office to being with?” Jensen asked.

Bob Hallahan, who lives in the Polnell Precinct, said the turnout was double from what his precinct saw in the last caucus four years ago. Back then, people were mad about the war.

“We’ve doubled the anger,” Hallahan said.

“I was expecting a good turnout and we got a great one. I was thrilled, absolutely thrilled. I really had to search to find a place to park.”

Talk in his precinct kept returning to a central theme: electability.

“People are enthusiastic about Obama. He’s inspiring,” Hallahan said.

“They really want the change to come, and they were concerned that Hillary was a bit divisive.”

For Hallahan, the federal budget deficit and the environment were his two biggest issues.

“I fell back on a gut feeling for Obama. I really like the way he speaks.”

Despite the record turnout, Hallahan had words of caution to his fellow Democrats.

“There are still uncommitted people out there. There are certainly uncommitted independents out there,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us to turn the White House blue.”

Although the caucus for North Whidbey went overwhelmingly Obama’s way, Clinton won more precincts on the North End than anywhere else in Island County.

Clinton won five precincts at the North Whidbey caucus, while Obama won the other 20.

The former first lady carried the Highland precinct, the area just east of the Ault Field Road entrance to Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. The precinct includes two mobile home parks, Thunderbird and Country Place, and the Sunset Ridge neighborhood. The precinct has a history of picking the eventual party nominee.

In prior presidential preference primaries, Highland picked Al Gore by a 3-to-1 margin over Bill Bradley in 2000, voted unanimously for Bill Clinton in 1996. In the 1992 presidential primary, Clinton won the precinct by two votes over Jerry Brown, but Clinton failed to win a majority due to a strong showing by Paul Tsongas.

Hillary Clinton won four districts within Oak Harbor; precincts 2, 3, 6 and 9.

Oak Harbor Precinct 2 includes the neighborhoods from Maylor to Quaker streets just south of East Whidbey Avenue. Oak Harbor Precinct 3 is the area just north, and includes voters who live along First through Fourth avenues.

Turnout was relatively low for the two precincts; just six people came out to caucus and they all voted for Clinton. Those precincts have also picked the party’s nominee in past primaries.

Both precincts were won by Al Gore in the 2000 primary, and Bill Clinton easily won the precinct votes in the 1992 and 1996 primaries.

Cheryl Jaeger, a voter in Oak Harbor Precinct 3, was attending her first caucus.

“I definitely think my county is in need and the best way to support it, I feel, is to come out and support the process,” Jaeger said.

While her precinct was one of the few to go to Clinton, Jaeger said it could have gone either way.

“One of us were very firm in our commitment and three of us were somewhat undecided. We were sway-able. I believe it was the fact that Clinton has more political experience,” Jaeger said.

Older people appreciate experience, she said with a laugh.

Jaeger said Clinton’s position on improving the healthcare system was key to her winning the precinct.

In Oak Harbor Precinct 6, Hillary Clinton won the vote, 5-4, over Obama. Precinct 6 spans the area from SE Midway Boulevard west to Highway 20.

While the last presidential primary went easily to Al Gore in the precinct, Bill Clinton polled nearly even with Brown in the 1992 primary but won easily in the following presidential primary.

Oak Harbor Precinct 9, which includes the Seaplane Base of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island and large tracts of military housing, the vote went Hillary Clinton’s way on Saturday, 5-3. Her husband easily won the precinct in the 1992 and 1996 primaries, but the area was nearly split between Gore and Bradley in 2000.

Elsewhere on the north end, it was all Obama.

In 15 of the 25 precincts caucusing at North Whidbey Middle School, Obama won twice or three times the number of votes that Clinton received. In 10 precincts, he won 70 percent or more of the votes cast.

Obama won all 11 votes cast in Oak Harbor precincts 4 and 5, the neighborhoods just northwest of Olympic View Elementary School along Ronhaar Street, and along City Beach east of South Beeksma Drive.

His next strongest showing was in the Dugualla Precinct, which includes the Northgate Terrace neighborhood and Fircrest Estates. Obama won 80 percent of the vote in Dugualla, a precinct that narrowly went to Al Gore in the 2000 primary and Bill Clinton in 1992, although Clinton won the precinct handily in 1996.

A total of 465 voters participated in the caucus, and Obama won 64 percent of the vote.

In the first vote tally, two candidates who have dropped out of the race - Dennis Kuchinich and John Edwards - received three votes total. After caucus goers had a chance to speak out for their candidates, two votes switched to Obama, and one to Clinton.

Fifteen voters came to the caucus uncommitted, and both Obama and Clinton were able to pick up several more votes from those caucus goers who did make a selection on the second vote. Some voters left the caucus still uncommitted.

- Brian Kelly, South Whidbey Record

North Whidbey Republican Caucus

There were first-timers and old hands, party stalwarts and political newbies.

In fact, so many Republicans showed up at Oak Harbor Christian School for Saturday’s caucus that Island County Republican chairwoman Kathy Jones was forced to bring in more chairs and send volunteers to a local office supply outlet to run off extra copies of the platform questionnaire.

“We ended up with 231 voters — 511 countywide — and a total of over 300 in attendance here in Oak Harbor,” Jones said.

The caucus was one of three for the GOP on Feb. 9 that was held to elect delegates to the county convention and to discuss the party’s November platform.

On North Whidbey, 39 percent of caucus-goers voted to support McCain, the party’s presumptive nominee.

But there were a lot of Huckabee fans as well; even a few who expressed hope that Romney would change his mind and restart his campaign.

North End voters preferred McCain by a slim margin, giving him 90 votes to Huckabee’s 76, Ron Paul’s 23 and Romney’s 18. There were 24 present who remained uncommitted.

After signing in as Republicans and swearing not to enter any other caucus, people quickly found their way to the table for their precinct.

There, they were encouraged to chat with neighbors about their party’s platform — a primary focus for the GOP now that McCain is close to being the party’s official nominee.

At the Oak Harbor Precinct 2 table, Joel Miller, a department manager at Albertson’s, and Nicole Powell, who works at a local animal hospital, said they wanted to be involved in the process. Both support Texas congressman Ron Paul.

“If he doesn’t make it I hope he runs as an independent this year,” Miller said.

Their main concern dealt with issues. For Miller, it’s the budget and the war in Iraq, while Powell is worried about healthcare and trade.

Dugualla precinct committee chair Kristy Miller was nearby, attending her first caucus.

“I support the ideals of the GOP and I feel I couldn’t stand by and watch. I wanted to be involved,” she said.

She voted for McCain but hopes the Arizona senator will add her personal favorite to the Republican ticket.

“McCain and Huckabee; it has a nice ring, don’t you think?”

The caucus also drew some who are too young to vote.

“We’re talking about the election in my American government class in high school and I wanted to see how the process works,” said Mary Jo Mangiameli, 17.

Doug McVey is a computer scientist who just retired from the Navy. He brought his wife Michelle and son Josh, 13, and Natalie, 11.

“We’re a die-hard Republican family and this is important,” he said. “We’ll do whatever we have to to beat Clinton and Obama.”

McVey said he was worried about government spending and getting Washington out of his life.

“Huckabee is my guy but I’m voting Republican, regardless,” he added.

Rep. Barbara Bailey said she was disappointed when Romney dropped out of the race and said she personally supported former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson, who left the race after his defeat in South Carolina.

“I haven’t committed to any specific candidate still in the race yet; as an elected official, it’s a little delicate,” she said.

Other elected officials present included County Commissioner Mac McDowell, Sheriff Mark Brown and several Oak Harbor city council members.

Though the north end of Whidbey Island is considered a Republican stronghold, turnout was lighter at the GOP caucus than the Democratic one across the street.

Even so, the line to sign up was still busy well past the start time, as the 22 tables began to overflow. At least 20 young people from area schools armed with notebooks sat along the side ready to take notes.

Jones told the crowd the GOP wants a strong America, and a Republican party that can lower taxes for businesses and control the border.

“The Democrats are calling for socialized medicine — is that what you want?” Jones asked as the crowd roared its response.

Jones asked each precinct to choose a chair to lead the discussion on the party platform. Unlike the Democratic caucuses, Republicans talked more about the issues than the name that should be at the top of the ticket.

At the Westview precinct table, Sandy Hunt said her 14-year-old daughter made her come.

“I’m glad she did because I’m concerned about immigration and taxes,” she said. “We supported Romney but will go with McCain.”

Ed Fakkema, 68, was the lone voter from the San de Fuca Precinct.

“I nominate myself as precinct chair,” he said, smiling.

It was Fakkema’s first caucus on Whidbey but sixth overall. He is supporting McCain.

“I’m a lifelong Republican and I want to be involved; the war on terror, securing our borders and controlling government spending are important to me,” he said.

Zander Collier, 65, said the war and securing borders were at the top of his list.

“I supported Romney and I don’t know who will be at the top now. But I’ll vote for McCain in November,” he said.

Both Collier and Fakkema said they were excited at seeing so many young people present.

“They are the future,” Collier said. “They seem to be showing more interest than I’ve seen in a long time.”

Though McCain won Washington overall, many on North Whidbey said they liked the Republican governor from Arkansas more.

Ashley Gooch said her Coupeville family likes Huckabee because of his values.

“He’s for fair taxes and against abortion and gun control,” she said.

Benye Weber from the Prairie Precinct said the number of people showing up demonstrated a renewed interest in the GOP.

“Not many showed up in 2004 so this is a very good turnout,” added Linda Haddon, who is running this November to unseat state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen.

“I found folks were excited to be here today, not just interested,” Haddon said. “For a long time the silent majority has been too silent. Not anymore.”

For the North End, McCain won 19 of 38 total precincts while Huckabee picked up 10.

Paul’s single precinct win came in Oak Harbor Precinct 9.

Eight precincts divided their votes among all the nominees or were uncommitted.

McCain was strongest in Oak Harbor precincts 8 and 14, Silver Lake and Soundview.

Huckabee’s main support came from Oak Harbor 10 and 12, Cornet, Coupeville 1, Countryside, Fort Nugent, Highland and Polnell.

Soundview had the most uncommitted votes with five of 11 cast; the other six went for McCain.

- Jeff VanDerford, South Whidbey Record

Camano Island Republican Caucus

With standing room at a premium, Republican caucus goers packed the Camano Multi Purpose Center on Camano Island.

Two-year-old Tyler Marsh may not know it, but the Republican Caucus may have a profound effect on his life.

The toddler accompanied his grandmother Betty Marsh to the caucus because his mother is stationed outside Washington while training with the Army.

For many of the 120-plus caucus participants, the war in Iraq played a vital role in their choice of candidates.

“Our daughter will most likely go to Iraq in the next few months,” Marsh said. “It will be important to have someone in office that will look out for the troops.”

Party officials did not release precinct results before presstime. But Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, was the big winner on Camano Island.

Huckabee edged McCain 41-31.

Patrick Hayes, a first-time caucus attendee, agreed that the war on terrorism is the most critical issue at hand. Still, he wasn’t ready to say McCain was his favorite to run against the eventual Democratic nominee.

“John McCain says he’ll stay the course,” said Hayes, an undecided voter. “Whatever we do, we can’t just cut and run.”

Many families brought their children out to see the process.

Victoria McCarty was glad to see the diverse crowd, which included men and women, teens and seniors.

“It’s a pivotal election,” said McCarty. “All of the campaign brouhaha has created a heightened interest in what a caucus is all about.”

Other voters believed taking part in the election process was more than a right, for them it’s a duty.

Dale Tyler, a retired Air Force veteran, said the more informed a voter is,

the better suited a person is to make a decision in November.

“Young people should really know the person who they vote for,” said Tyler.

Party officials did not release precinct results before presstime. But Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, was the big winner on Camano Island.

All told, 129 people voted in the Camano GOP caucus, although the crowd was much larger due to teens, family members and other observers.

Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, to 28 votes, even though he has dropped out of the race. Another 17 voters were uncommitted at Saturday’s caucus.

- Rick Wood, Stanwood/Camano News

Camano Island Democratic Caucus

Saturday was no ordinary caucus on Camano Island — it was raucous.

Participation was unprecedented, according to local Democratic Party leaders, who attributed the outpouring of community involvement to a deeply felt desire for a new path for American government.

Just shy of 640 residents packed the gym at Utsalady Elementary School this weekend to take part.

Space was so limited by 12:30 p.m. — a half an hour before the event was scheduled to kick off, that Mary Hughes, vice chair of Island County Democrats, was out of chairs and wishing for more space.

“I’m thinking we should have had two schools,” said Hughes, gesturing to the

crowds of people standing around the perimeter of the room.

But Hughes was not complaining about the still burgeoning line of people filing in.

“This kind of participation is wonderful,” she said.

Each precinct was surrounded by participants, leaning inward to share their personal reasons for supporting a candidate. The roar of the crowd was deafening, interspersed with bouts of cheers and clapping.

Doug Fries, president of the Camano Island Democrats, said he’s never seen such a crowd at an island caucus before.

“Our last caucus was two years ago, and, yes, it was an off-year, but we still probably had only 20 or so people,” he said. “This number goes to show people want to make things happen.”

Gene Johnston, a retired journalist representing the Triangle Cove precinct, said this was the first time he had come out to a caucus in a very long time.

This year, he felt just mailing in his ballot was not enough.

“I’d like to see Mrs. Clinton as the Democratic candidate. I’m afraid that Mr. Obama is too inexperienced to handle our current mess,” he said.

Triangle Cove, a traditionally left-leaning precinct, went solidly to Bill Clinton in the 1992 and 1996 primaries, and Al Gore took the area by a nearly 3-to-1 margin over Bill Bradley in 2000.

A few residents came out to show support for candidates no longer in the race for president.

Monica Mattison, of the Utsalady Precinct, donned a sweatshirt in support of former candidate Dennis Kucinich.

“(Kucinich) was against the war from the start. He believes in a not-for-profit health care system, which this country so badly needs,” she said.

Utsalady overall has been a teeter-totter district, and the presidential vote was split dead even between Gore and George Bush in 2004. Historically, the precinct has usually favored the establishment candidate for the Democrats; Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996 and Gore in 2000.

Utsalady was Clinton’s strongest precinct on Camano; she earned 46 percent of the vote.

During the second vote tally at her precinct, Mattison and another Kucinich supporter switched their votes to support Obama because “he was also against the war from the start.”

A fellow precinct participant supporting Hillary Clinton, however, retorted that Obama was not in the Senate at the time of the vote authorizing the war in the first place.

Other precinct residents questioned whether or not Clinton could beat anticipated Republican nominee John McCain, citing reasons such as the belief that Clinton may not get the votes from independents that Obama could pull, according to some national polls.

Antonetta Vegar, also a Utsalady voter, said she supported Clinton because “she’s one of the brightest, sharpest people of our era.”

“Clinton has always fought for children, education, families and healthcare,” she said.

Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen wants a Democrat in the White House in 2009 no matter what.

“This country sorely needs a new direction. We have so many problems to overcome. I like both candidates, but I’d vote for Mickey Mouse if he could win,” Haugen said with a chuckle.

Haugen is supporting Obama this election season, she said, because his supporters are diversified and “look like America” and he “inspires and rallies a lot of different people.”

The senator said she will support whoever the Democratic candidate is, however. And the turnout at Saturday’s event was proof the party is energized and excited about the upcoming election.

“I’ve lived on Camano Island my whole life, and I’ve never seen this many people at a meeting before. The excitement today is amazing,” Haugen said.

Haugen’s 18-year-old grandson Nathan, a Stanwood High School student, came to caucus for Obama in his first-ever presidential election.

Nathan said he was drawn to Obama because he was a motivational speaker.

“I do think young people are paying attention and are very interested in the election,” he said. “We want to get more involved, and we want our voice heard.”

The economy and the war in Iraq, he said, are his two biggest issues.

Supporters of the two candidates traded one-minute speeches explaining why they were for a given person. Topics cited by proponents of both candidates were primarily the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, affordable healthcare, restoring public confidence in American government and improving foreign relations and America’s image abroad.

Obama won all 10 precincts on Camano. He received his biggest support in the Camano Precinct, one of only two precincts on the island that were won by the Democrats in the presidential elections in 2000 and 2004.

- Bridget Budbill, Stanwood/Camano News

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