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Democrats make history

Dems winning in five north end precincts, total turnout

For the first time in Island County history, more Democrats cast ballots for their presidential pick than Republicans during the presidential primary.

Another shocker: Democratic candidates for president are also ahead in five Oak Harbor precincts, another first in presidential primary politics.

Island County has long been dominated by the GOP, and Democratic presidential candidates have never outpolled Republicans in the GOP bastion of Oak Harbor. In all three prior presidential primaries — in 2000, 1996 and 1992 — Republicans easily racked up the most votes against their Democratic counterparts in Oak Harbor’s 15 precincts.

Early precinct results show Democrats leading in five in-city precincts, however.

And across the county, Democrats were ahead in the overall presidential vote, 53 to 46 percent, over the Republicans. Beyond the sheer number advantage, it’s especially noteworthy because the presidential primary is basically a beauty contest this time for the Democrats; only the Republican Party will use the results of Tuesday’s primary to assign delegates for presidential candidates.

“I think people are excited, there’s no question about it,” said Marshall Goldberg, chairman of the Island County Democrats.

“We have an opportunity for change nationally. The two candidates, [Barack] Obama and [Hillary] Clinton, they are people who are excited about both of those candidates.”

“People are excited about having a Democrat in the White House,” he said.

Republican officials were happy with Tuesday’s turnout.

“I wasn’t at all surprised that the turnout would be high,” said Kathy Jones, chairwoman of the Island County Republican Central Committee.

“There is a lot of excitement and interest in this presidential election. I think that people are concerned about our country and the direction that it’s going and they want to make sure they want to have a voice in future policies. We saw that in the caucuses and we saw that in the primary,” she said.

“Certainly the Democrats are looking pretty strong in a lot of states right now, and the Republicans are going to have their work cut out for them if we want to keep the White House. A lot can happen between now and then, too,” Jones said.

Tuesday’s primary vote was not all doom and gloom for the Republicans, however.

GOP voters are starting to rally around Sen. John McCain for president, according to early vote results.

McCain had only collected 32 percent of the vote during the Republican caucuses on Whidbey and Camano islands earlier this month. Now, he is leading the ticket by 54 percent of the Republican vote.

Jones said it was too soon to declare McCain the frontrunner until the party’s county convention in March.

“Until that’s done I’m not going to draw that conclusion,” she said.

In the cross-party match-up, however, Sen. Obama was leading over McCain, 5,817 votes to 5,046.

Tuesday’s primary also follows a nationwide trend on the Democrat side, with Obama doing better in caucuses than in primary votes.

Earlier this month, Obama won in a landslide against Sen. Clinton by amassing 68 percent of the caucus vote in Island County.

On Tuesday, though, his advantage over Clinton had fallen to 53 percent.

Some expected the gap between the two candidates to narrow during the Washington primary.

“That doesn’t surprise me,” Goldberg said. “I believe that is consistent with other reports across the country, where Obama has tended to do much better in caucuses than he does in primaries.”

By many measures, primary voters were turning out for Democrats.

Democrats were winning the most precincts; 35 out of 65. Obama was taking 32; Clinton five and McCain, 27, in early returns.

“I think people are anxious to change the direction this country is

going. I think the change mantra is real,” Goldberg said.

In one sign of how strong Democratic turnout was Tuesday, the Democratic candidate who came in second place for the party in the precinct tallies – 18 times out of 21 it was Clinton – was still in front of McCain in the number of votes. While those precincts included the usual suspects, Langley 1 and 2, Glendale, they also included a few surprises, like the Coveland and Ault precincts.

In the last presidential primary, Coveland put George W. Bush in front, McCain in second, and Gore in third.

In the 2000 race, Bush got twice as many votes as Al Gore, and there were still enough votes left over for John McCain to finish in front of Gore by double digits, as well.

This time, however, Obama won the precinct, 77-73, over McCain in early returns.

Goldberg said he could not comment on individual precincts because he had not seen detailed breakdowns of the vote.

In a review of early precinct returns by The Record, Democrats were winning in north end precincts that had gone to the Republicans in earlier presidential elections.

For the first time ever, Democrats were competitive in the city of Oak Harbor. In all of the prior presidential primaries, Democratic candidates had never won more votes than their Republican counterparts in any of the city’s 15 precincts.

On Tuesday, Democrats won five.

Clinton led in Oak Harbor 7, the area that includes Oak Hollow Mobile Park and the land south to East Whidbey Avenue.

And Obama was in front in Oak Harbor 2, 9, 11 and 12; precincts that include substantial tracts of military housing near the Seaplane Base at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, and neighborhoods south of Parkwood Manor Mobile Park, just west of North Oak Harbor Street.

McCain was ahead in a wide swath of Oak Harbor, in precincts 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 13, 14 and 15.

The Democrats were competitive within the party in Oak Harbor, as well. Clinton was clinging to a one-vote lead over Obama in Oak Harbor 1, and she led Obama by three votes in Oak Harbor 7.

Across Island County, Obama was leading in early returns on South Whidbey in the Austin, Clinton, Deer Lake, Freeland, Glendale, Sandy Point, Saratoga, Maxwelton, Useless Bay, Lone Lake, Bush Point, Possession Point, and Langley 1 and 2 precincts.

On Camano Island, he was ahead in the Country Club, Livingston Bay, Camano, Utsalady, Driftwood and Maple Grove precincts.

On Central Whidbey, Obama was leading in the Greenbank, Lagoon Point, Central, Prairie, San de Fuca, Coveland, Admiralty and Coupeville 1 precincts.

Clinton was ahead in the Coupeville 2 Precinct.

She also led in the Ault Precinct on North Whidbey, and also in the Mabana and Madrona precincts on Camano Island.

McCain was in the lead in the North Whidbey precincts of Cornet, Dugualla, Hillcrest, Silver Lake, Highland, Countryside, Polnell, Soundview

The senator from Arizona also led in Penn Cove, Scenic Heights, Swantown, Westview, Hastie Lake, Fort Nugent and West Beach.

On the South End, McCain was first in the vote count in the Double Bluff Precinct.

McCain was also ahead in the Point Allen Precinct on Camano Island.

Before Tuesday, the last presidential primary was held almost eight years ago; Feb. 29, 2000. A presidential primary wasn’t held in 2004 because the Republicans already had a candidate – the incumbent president – and the state Democratic Party did not want to use a primary vote to pick its delegates.

In the 2000 Presidential Primary, Republican votes for the nominees – Gary Bauer, George W. Bush, Steve Forbes, Orrin Hatch, Alan Keyes and John McCain - totaled 8,447.

Democratic votes for Bill Bradley, Al Gore and Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr. totaled 3,822.

There were also invalid write-in votes cast that year for Jessie Ventura, Hillary Clinton, Ralph Nader and Charlton Heston.

In 1996, the Republican ballot was stuffed for the March 26 presidential primary: Bob Dole, Lamar Alexander, Patrick Buchanan, Robert K. Dornan, Steve Forbes, Phil Gramm, Alan Keyes and Richard Lugar.

The race drew 2,399 voters in a race Dole won handily (1,623), followed by Buchanan (390) and a distant Forbes (209).

On the Democratic ticket, the choice between Bill Clinton and Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr. drew 196 votes.

Republicans also came out more than the Democrats for the presidential primary in May 1992. A total of 2,277 Republicans votes, compared to 1,434 on the Democratic side, despite a packed ballot featuring Jerry Brown, Bill Clinton, Tom Harkin, Bob Kerry, Paul Tsongas and Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr. Write-in candidates included H. Ross Perot, Jesse Jackson and Bill Bradley.

For the Republicans, George Bush was the choice over Patrick Buchanan, David Duke and Stephen D. Michael.

Despite the excitement generated by this year’s presidential contest, the number of new registrations in the final 30 days of signing up to vote was not remarkable this year, compared to earlier presidential primaries.

In 2000, for example, 292 voters registered during the 30-day time frame, said Deputy Auditor Michele Reagan.

In 1996, 139 people registered, and in 1992, 134 voters registered during a comparable period of time.

There were early oddities in the first vote tallies Tuesday.

Clinton and McCain were dead even in one precinct in front of third-place Obama: Triangle Cove on Camano Island. Both Clinton and McCain had collected 118 votes in early returns.

In the Useless Bay Precinct, an overall win for Obama, it was close, too, farther down the ticket. McCain had picked up 115 votes to Clinton’s 114.

In Scenic Heights on North Whidbey, the precinct was still on the bubble and could swing to a Democrat as more votes are counted. McCain had 28 votes in earlier returns, while Clinton had 26 and Obama, 25.

While the Swantown Precinct was won easily by McCain - he took 66 percent of the Republican vote and had almost triple the votes that either Obama or Clinton had amassed in early tallies — Clinton and Obama were locked in a dead heat in the precinct. Each had collected 59 vote, or 48.76 percent of the Democratic votes cast.

The Westview Precinct near Oak Harbor was also the scene of a battle between Obama and Clinton, as Obama held a one-vote lead early returns.

And in Soundview, also on North Whidbey, Obama’s lead was just one vote, as well, over Clinton in early returns.

Also on the edge — the Hastie Lake Precinct east of Oak Harbor.

Though McCain had tallied the most votes of all presidential contenders in Hastie Lake, Obama trailed by just one vote.

While McCain was also leading the vote in Point Allen on Camano Island, a precinct that has traditionally leaned left in past presidential elections, Obama trailed by just two votes.

Republican support for the national frontrunner seems to be solidifying.

McCain led others on the GOP ticket in every precinct, although he did not claim the majority vote in all.

Within his party, McCain’s strongest support, percentage wise, came in the Double Bluff Precinct, where he led with 79 percent of the Republican vote.

He also received sizable support in Clinton, Maxwelton, Useless Bay on the South End, and in Westview, West Beach, Swantown, Coupeville 2, Dugualla and Cornet. He led with 60 percent of the GOP vote on Point Allen Precinct on Camano.

Officials in both parties, however, were reluctant to say if Tuesday’s vote will be a harbinger for the November election and if it will be a replay of the “blue tide” that swept the county and the country in 2006.

In 2006, Democrats picked up a seat on the board of county commissioners and tallied enough wins to control half of the elected positions in county government.

Island County Commissioner Phil Bakke, who was appointed to the board last year and is running for the seat come November, said he wasn’t worried about being a Republican during a time when many voters seem to be calling for change. Bakke is facing a challenge from Democrat Helen Price-Johnson.

“I believe the voters in our county will look to cast their ballots for

the most qualified individuals who will move their county

forward in a way that protects its environment, stewards its

economy and keeps our county a jewel,” Bakke said.

“I think I represent change,” he added.

“For the first time the county has a policy-maker who is a land-use

specialist. It brings a perspective to the board that has not been there before,” Bakke said.

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