Written by Malinda Just Wednesday, 13 February 2008 08:24
Marion County was represented at the state caucuses for both the Republicans and Democrats last week. Republicans gathered Saturday, four days after the Democratic meeting on Super Tuesday.
The first Republican Party competitive caucus in 20 years drew 20,000 registered voters to polls across the state.
Clint Seibel, Hillsboro, along with other registered Republicans from Marion County, were among the people who attended the gathering in McPherson.
“It was good to see a number of other Marion County voters there, too,” said Seibel, Republican precinct person and vice chair of the Marion County Republican Committee.
“I think it is always important for the public to let their voice be heard,” he said. “We might think that we are only one vote and it won’t make any difference, but votes are counted one at a time.”
The caucus was at McPherson’s Historic Opera House, and according to Seibel was “absolutely packed out.”
“We were instructed to go to the fifth-floor auditorium to register and then take the elevator to the basement level where the overflow room was also nearly filled,” he said.
Despite the full house, Seibel said the registration process was relatively fast.
“It really went pretty quick,” he said.
Once registered, Republicans in the main caucus room heard speeches in support of candidates.
In the basement overflow, however, Seibel said the participants weren’t able to hear the speeches, so ballots were passed out at 10 a.m.
“It took about 10 minutes to mark and hand in our ballots and we were out of there,” he said. I really don’t know how long the people upstairs in the auditorium had to stay before receiving their ballots.”
Despite John McCain seizing a sizable lead in the GOP race after Super Tuesday, Mike Huckabee won the Kansas caucus with 60 percent of the vote. McCain received 24 percent.
“As things are turning out, it looks like even though the majority of Kansas Republicans voted for Huckabee, it won’t change the outcome of the Republican nominee for president,” Seibel said. “McCain has such a large lead it will take a miracle for Huckabee to win.
“At the same time, the overwhelming response for Huckabee will no doubt help McCain to take a look at how he can win the support of the more conservative vote. I’m sure he will change some of his rhetoric to try and gain the trust of the conservatives.”
Democrats on Super Tuesday
On Super Tuesday, the Democratic Party held its first competitive caucus held in Kansas in 20 years.
Like the Republicans on Saturday, the Democrats turned out in droves Tuesday, despite inclement weather. About 37,000 Democrats attended caucuses around the state.
Democrat Keith Collett, Marion, attended the caucus in Emporia at the Best Western hotel along with about six other Marion County voters.
“There were a number of others (from the county) that had planned to go, but the weather frightened them off,” Collett said. “And for good reason, because getting home was an adventure.”
Despite the weather, Collett said the caucus attendance was much increased in comparison to the same event four years ago.
“Four years ago I went and there were 50 people in the conference room at the Best Western,” he said. “And that was on a Saturday.
“This year I went to Emporia— same hotel—and there were about 550 there in that foul weather that night.”
Lines for registration formed inside and outside the hotel, Collett said. Registered Democrats waited in line along with first-time voters and those switching party affiliation.
“There was a long line of people either registering for the first time or switching their registration—a long line of people,” Collett said.
Asked what he thought accounted for the turnout, Collett said it revolves around change.
“I think it goes to the very real sense that many people in both parties think the country is seriously on the wrong track,” he said.
Once registered, participants moved to different locations in the hotel for a hand-count. To be viable, candidates needed 15 percent of the voters’ support.
In the case that a candidate did not have 15 percent of the vote, participants could leave the caucus or move to another viable candidate.
As in the majority of states participating in Super Tuesday caucuses, Barack Obama carried the vote in Kansas, including the Emporia location.
Supporters voted 350 to 200 for Obama over Hilary Clinton, Collett said.
“There were almost 200 people there supporting Mrs. Clinton,” Collett said. “She quadrupled the entire turn-out from (the last caucus in Emporia) and lost.”
Collett said he enjoyed the chance to participate in the Democratic caucus this year—particularly with the large turnout.
“It made me feel for an hour or so that I lived in a Blue state,” he said. “Marion County can be a pretty lonely place for Democrats.”