Wednesday, March 16, 2016

County Democrats Feel the Bern and Stand Up for Hillary

County Democratic Party Caucus is March 26 at a Location Near You

By Janine Gates

The Thurston County Democratic Party caucuses will be held Saturday, March 26, from 10 a.m. – noon in over 30 locations such as schools and community centers throughout the county.

In presidential campaigns, a caucus is a local gathering where voters decide which candidate to support. It’s complicated, but in a nutshell, the caucus system is how the Democrats allocate delegates, who ultimately elect the candidate that you get to vote for in November.

Caucuses are lively meetings which can be a bit raucous and intimidating for newcomers to the political process, but well worth the effort. They are an opportunity to meet your closest neighbors, see old friends, make new friends, listen, and engage in a grassroots, democratic process. 

Go to or to find your precinct and your precinct caucus location.

National field organizers for both the Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton campaigns have recently arrived in Thurston County, and have hit the ground meeting local activists. 

Getting out the vote, phone banking and doorbelling to educate voters, especially undecided voters, are the most important part of both campaigns right now.

At caucus, voters must declare their Democratic preference. Eligible voters, including 17 year olds who will be 18 by November 8, can register and vote at the caucus. To register ahead of time, go to

If you cannot attend the caucus due to military service, work schedule, illness, disability, or religious observance, you can get a surrogate affidavit form and return it by March 18. Go to the Washington State Democrat website at for more information.

Walt Bowen, Thurston County Democratic State Committeeman, has been active in numerous leadership roles for the Washington State Democrats since 1969. A precinct committee officer, Bowen is a big fan of the caucus process.

“Democracy is work. The price is vigilance and commitment to support it,” he said. Bowen said the caucus process costs the Thurston County Democrats about $20,000 to $30,000 in rent for facilities, insurance, janitor fees, security, and more.

“It’s labor intensive, but we get a lot out of it on multiple levels, in grassroots communication and commitment….On a local level, we identify the issues, have discussions, take votes in front of other people, and develop a platform. That’s not easy. 

We meet each other, identify potential future candidates for city council and the legislature, raise money, win elections, and govern. This is the weakest time for political parties. Look at the money in politics! Who’s left to protect democracy? An informed electorate….Winning is getting organized,” said Bowen.

Above: Olympian John Van Kampen, 78, is campaigning for Bernie Sanders.

Local Sanders Supporters Feel the Bern

National field organizers for the Bernie Sanders campaign recently arrived in Thurston County but hundreds of local fans having been “feeling the Bern” since their county kickoff campaign event last July.

Organizers will host a Sanders “Bernstorm” campaign event on Thursday, March 17, 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. at Obsidian , 414 4th Ave East, in downtown Olympia, which will kick off a flurry of upcoming events. 

Retired veteran John Van Kampen, 78, doorbelled Eastside neighborhood residents in early March, educating potential voters about the upcoming caucus.

A South Sound resident since 1983, Van Kampen says he never knew until recently that Washington had caucuses.

Asked why he is supporting Sanders, Van Kampen said, “Bernie speaks for me in a way and to a degree I am unaccustomed to since the days of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his magnificent wife, Eleanor. Maybe I was a bit young, then, to understand the details my mother explained to me, but I sensed greatness of those two and what was once the best of the Democratic Party, a greatness maybe the Kennedy clan might have restored if assassin's bullets had not cut the heart out of that family.

“….I hurt when I see the homeless on our street corners but have not the gifts they need or the acumen to make their plight seem real to…those who watch unreality TV and live in that world too much…to have the time to look around  and see what they can do for their country and their neighborhood. If face to face is uncomfortable, I ask for a vote for Bernie. It's a start,” said Van Kampen.

Joe Nilsson, Olympia, is also a Sanders supporter and a past chair of the Thurston County Democrats.

“My personal journey has taken me from serving on the 1992 and 1996 Clinton-Gore Washington steering committees, being a 1992 Clinton party leader delegate, a 1996 Presidential elector, and the state party treasurer for eight years to the painful recognition that in the last two decades, the Democratic Party and Democratic politics had been compromised at the national level by corporate money and very wealthy donors.  In the process, our democracy has slipped towards becoming an oligarchy, the middle class has been decimated, and 90 percent of Americans are worse off, many far worse off.  Economic inequality is at the most extreme since the 1920's.

“As a member of a very large, multiracial family…I worry that the younger members of my family and their peers won't have a fair shot at a decent future if we don't change the dystopian status quo.

“I see Senator Sanders as an honorable, compassionate, progressive, forward-looking leader and the catalyst we need to create the peaceful revolution we so desperately need. Amazingly, I have yet to find any issue I have any serious disagreement with him on.  Bernie inspires me and gives me hope for the future we all ought to have and deserve,” said Nilsson.

Above: Clinton national field organizer Erin Phillips met with Thurston County caucus captains for Hillary Clinton at the Lacey Timberland Library on Tuesday evening.

Standing Up For Hillary

About 15 Clinton caucus captains met late Tuesday afternoon at the Lacey Timberland Library, and let out a big whoop upon hearing the news that Hillary Clinton had won Ohio Tuesday evening.

Their three talking points: “She’s a fighter for you and your family, she gets things done, and she’s tough enough to stop the Republicans from ripping away the progress we’ve made.”

Almost more important than telling Hillary’s story, campaign coordinators said, is telling your own story, and explaining to others why you support Clinton.

“Tell Bernie supporters or undecideds something about your life that connects to Hillary’s values. It doesn’t have to be positive or negative,” said Clinton national field organizer Erin Phillips, 24, of Michigan, who arrived in Olympia about two weeks ago.

Another field organizer, Tess Rabin, 24, of California, backed her up, and told her own story of why she is supporting Clinton. 

Saying 18 million Americans rely on the Affordable Care Act, she told the story of her friend’s mom who needed medical care for ovarian cancer and got the care she needed because she had access to the health care system created by President Obama.

“…The other reason I’m supporting her is because she has shattered the glass ceiling. She’s protecting my body.  Roe v. Wade should not be up for discussion. I trust her with that responsibility wholeheartedly….” said Rabin.

Tyler Mesman, 24, is new to Olympia, having recently moved here from Michigan. A college graduate, he has traveled internationally and is now an environmental education assistant. Mesman said he is supporting Clinton because she has “figured out the best way to move forward,” and appreciates the fact that she will make college affordable.

Wendy Frankel-Reed, a retired teacher, is the Clinton caucus captain for Precinct 35. Frankel-Reed said Clinton is experienced, incredibly bright, imperfect like any candidate, would work with world leaders, and has the skills and talents to compromise and find common ground.

She says Sanders doesn’t have foreign affairs experience and she can’t see him winning.

“I like Bernie a lot, and his values are my values as well, but he feels a little bit more like a one trick pony to me….He doesn’t offend me, but I don’t think the country is ready for somebody who identifies himself as a Socialist….

“Some say we'll have a woman candidate someday, but it needs to be the right woman. To me, she is the right woman for the job,” said Frankel-Reed.

For more information about the Thurston County Democrats, the caucus system, and precinct locations, go to or call (360) 956-0235.

To learn more about Bernie Sanders, go to or or contact field organizer Meghan Sutter,

To learn more about Hillary Clinton, go to or contact field organizer Erin Phillips, (517) 944-0263,