Saturday, March 26, 2016

Democratic Caucuses See Sanders Landslide in Washington

Above: A long line of people wrapped around Madison Elementary School as they await the doors to open at their neighborhood caucus Saturday morning. Caucus goers indicate a preference for a presidential candidate, who in turn allocate delegates, who ultimately elect the presidential candidate. After giving a brief speech, Clancy Mullins, in green jacket, was elected at the caucus as a delegate to the county convention. 

By Janine Gates

If you saw more people than usual walking on sidewalks early Saturday morning, it could have been that they were going to their Democratic caucuses in support of either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.

Caucuses were held throughout Thurston County in over three dozen locations.

Besides casting ballots for presidential candidates, voters also elected delegates who will represent them at legislative district caucuses and the Thurston County Democrats’ convention on May 1. 

Late Saturday, Thurston County chairperson Katie Nelson said that an estimated 12,000 people participated in the process.

We are sure that blows any records! she laughed, in a telephone interview with Little Hollywood.

The unofficial count shows Senator Sanders winning 868 Thurston County delegates and former Secretary of State Clinton with 246 delegates. Three of the delegates elected are uncommitted.

“I’m ecstatic about the turn out, especially by the young people who everyone claims are apathetic. The future of the Democratic Party is looking really good. This is what happens if you throw a party and everyone shows up!” she said.

Nelson disagreed with detractors who think the caucus system is archaic.

“They might say it’s archaic but people are coming together in person and making decisions. That predates the voting system, and with our surrogate affidavit form, we’re still inclusive. This is a very religious week, and it’s important we not block people out who can’t attend, unlike the Republicans,” she said.

Above: Thurston County Democratic Party vice-chairperson Susan Herring, standing on a chair in purple shirt, addresses about 600 participants from six precincts at a caucus held at Madison Elementary School in Olympia’s eastside neighborhood.  

Thurston County Democratic Party vice-chairperson Susan Herring coordinated the activities and protocol for Precincts 215, 230, 247, 248, 250, and 258 at Madison Elementary School. 

Her favorite quote, “Politics is only as good as the people who participate,” was reflected in smiles and neighborly, good spirits as an estimated 600 people crowded into the school gymnasium to participate in the democratic process.

It was often hard to hear in the initially bewildering, noisy environment as each precinct did their business in different corners of the gym. Sporadic applause rewarded first time caucus go-ers, first-time voters, and particularly eloquent speeches that didn’t duplicate well-worn rhetoric.

After submitting a piece of paper indicating one's preferred presidential candidate, there was an opportunity to be swayed by brief, impassioned speeches by supporters of either candidate. Some were undecided. Ballots for each candidate were counted in front of everyone and cross checked by those aligned with the opposing candidate. 

For Precinct 215, the initial raw votes came in with 142 for Sanders, 23 for Clinton, two undecideds, and one for President Obama. 

A woman who was initially undecided was concerned about Sanders’ ultimate electability, and wanted to make a statement, as a woman, to help a woman get elected to the position of President of the United States. 

Wendy Wachsmuth, who volunteered to help count the ballots, spoke about why she is a Clinton supporter.

Darleen Muhly, who works for the state, explained to her neighbors that she is a ‘devout feminist and union member’ and why she is supporting Sanders. Muhly said it was her son, Adrien Simkins, 19, who first told her about Sanders. 

After some conversation, the two undecided voters went with Sanders. The one who voted for President Obama went with Clinton.

Above: Under many watchful eyes, ballots for each candidate are counted. Wendy Wachsmuth, a Clinton supporter, (back to the camera), counts Sanders ballots, while Adrien Simkins, 19, right, a Sanders supporter, counts Clinton ballots. Simkins was later elected as a delegate from his precinct to the county convention.

Next Step: County Convention

Those who wanted to participate in the democratic process further gave brief speeches nominating themselves to be a delegate from their precinct and their legislative district to the county convention. 

Clancy Mullins, a Sanders supporter, was elected to be a delegate. He, his girlfriend Evelyn Blevins, and two daughters went to Seattle to see Sanders at Safeco Field on Friday night.

An enrolled Chinook Tribal member and a state worker for 16 years, Mullins said he grew up in a poor family, financed his own education, and still has college debt. 

This was his first caucus.

“I have worked in prisons as a correctional officer and as a classroom facilitator and have seen first-hand how families lives are changed by warehousing people for drug offenses that should be considered a medical addiction issue and not a crime where your freedom is taken away. This Bernie agrees with!

“I also support a healthcare system where anyone can see a doctor and not need to worry about how they will pay for it and if they get sick worry about financial ruin. I also love that Bernie is the only candidate I have heard talk about the Native Americans, the first people to this land and the injustices that occurred to these people. Bernie wants to work and partner with tribal nations,” said Mullins.

The Thurston County Democratic Convention will be held May 1 at Black Hills High School in Tumwater.

Thurston County has four legislative districts – Districts 2, 20, 22 and 35. All but District 2 will caucus at the county convention. Legislative District 2 delegates will caucus on April 17 at Ridgeline Middle School in Yelm.

By late Saturday evening, Sanders won Washington State with 101 delegates, and Alaska with 16 delegates. At this writing, Hawaii is still caucusing.

When we started this campaign no one thought we would win a single state, let alone 13 out of the first 31. No one thought we could compete financially with the most prolific fundraiser in Democratic Party history, especially by relying on small-dollar contributions from working Americans. We keep proving the political establishment and corporate media wrong. And if we continue to stand together, we are going to win,” said Sanders in a press release.

Above: Presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders in Seattle on Friday evening at Safeco Field.

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

For a previous article published March 16, 2016 about the Thurston County Democratic Party caucuses, go to Little Hollywood, and type key words into the search button.