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Sunday, June 16, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Bernie Sanders Secures Three-State Sweep

(CN) - Sen. Bernie Sanders continues to rack up wins in the west in the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination, scoring decisive victories Saturday in Washington state, Alaska and Hawaii.

The Vermont senator soundly defeated Hillary Clinton in Washington state, 73 percent to 27 percent.

Meanwhile in Alaska, Sanders won with 82 percent of the vote, compared to Clinton's 18 percent, and in Hawaii, Sanders bested Clinton, 70 percent to 30 percent.

The race between the two Democrats now heads to Wisconsin, where Sanders on Saturday night assured rally attendees in Madison "We are on our path to victory."

"It is hard for anybody to deny that our campaign has the momentum," he told more than 8,100 cheering supporters at the University of Wisconsin campus.

Wisconsin votes on April 5, at which time 95 delegates will be at stake.

Huge crowds turned out Saturday for Washington state's Democratic caucuses. In Seattle, thousands of voters in the dense Capitol Hill neighborhood forced party organizers to move caucuses from a ballroom venue to a neighborhood park and church.

Meanwhile, it was a cool, misty morning in Alaskan as caucus goers turned out in much larger than expected numbers to support their preference in the Democratic contest.

The huge turnout made for long lines, standing room only in caucus venues, and voting in overflow groups in hallways, parking lots and nearby parks.

As expected, "Last Frontier" Democrats are leaning heavily toward Bernie Sanders.

In Eagle River, Alaska nearly 500 people attempted to pack into a small conference area behind the public library in the community's Town Center, a space that looked as if it might comfortably accommodate half that number.

Voters spilled over into hallways and across the street in a municipal park while Jim Arlington, chairman of House District 14 and vote taker, was prompted to remind people the location of exits in case of emergency.

Some East Anchorage participants were clearly frustrated by a cumbersome process that forced them to drive several miles north of Anchorage to raise their hand with a colored post-it note for their preferred candidate, and then if selected as a delegate, head back across the municipality to the other caucus location at West Anchorage High School where voters in districts 15 through 28 held up their sticky notes.

One woman, a 66 year-old mental health therapist who hoped to be chosen as a delegate, but didn't want to give her name, was frustrated with the chaos and lack of guidance on the delegate process.

"I'm voting for Sanders," she said. "I volunteered on his first campaign when I lived in Vermont and I think he stands a better chance of beating Trump than Hillary."

A male friend of the therapist, Bob, 68, said he's not happy either with the process but he'll just "internalize it" rather than be vocal about it like others. A retired Army Vietnam Veteran, he also voiced his support for Sanders.

"He seems sincere." Bob said. "Hillary tries to be sincere but she's a political animal and I don't think she'll change things."


Others packed into the room or outside in the park seemed to take it all in stride and were glad to be part of the process.

Sue Jager, 73, and retired seemed to have a better spot in the park outside, or at least more elbow room, from which to participate. "I always vote," Jager said, when asked what brought her out today.

Jager planned to vote for Clinton. "I think she's the most prepared," Jager added.

Inside, Marissa Gingery, 21, a dental assistant, was excited to participate in a caucus for the first time.

"It's important," she said. "I'm voting for Bernie. I like what he stands for. When asked about Clinton, "Part of me wants to vote for her because she's I'd like to see a woman as president, but I don't trust her."

One uncommitted voter, Amy Rhyneer, 47, eventually moved to the Clinton side of the room. Earlier she told Courthouse News, "I don't know if it's because I'm an irrational underdog voter ... I love Bernie's idealism and Hillary's pragmatism, so can't go wrong either way."

Rhyneer, a self-described professional volunteer, also commented on how refreshing both Sanders and Clinton's campaigning has been compared to the Republicans. "They complement each other, like their one ticket campaigning together," she said.

Alaska has very few African Americans or Hispanics, a demographic more apt to vote for Clinton. Ultimately, voting at the Eagle River location seemed in line with the national demographic-younger voters for Sanders, older for Clinton, however there were crossovers too.

It also helped that Sanders wife Jane made a trip to Alaska to stump for her husband and to talk with Alaska Native tribes in the Bristol Bay area.

As for Clinton, she did her first interview with Alaska media last Tuesday, when she called in to KGOT Anchorage's morning radio "Breakfast Club."

During a very relaxed and upbeat exchange with hosts Malie Delgado and Casey Bieber Clinton spoke on a variety of topics including Alaska's dependence on the oil and gas industry and involving more women in politics. In the end, however, the radio call-in proved a little too little to sway Alaskan voters.

Record numbers of showed up across Hawaii on Saturday to vote in the state's Democratic presidential preference poll.

At the Kailua middle School on windward Oahu, voters waited in line for an hour or more to register with the party, while inside the polling place voters thronged volunteers holding sign-in sheets and ballots.

"Democracy is messy, " said Leigh Prentiss, a long time party member and Kailua resident. "One can't get frustrated. That's what a caucus is, it's volatile ... And its purpose is to engage new people, versus a formal primary."

While one first-time voter worried that the poll was "disorderly, long, convoluted and possibly inaccurate," others-many decked out in various Bernie Sanders gear-seemed energized by a process that by its very messiness, seemed transparent.

"Bernie just won Alaska," someone called out, to sporadic cheering.

"People are finding out who Bernie is," sad one excited young man. "He's not peaking too early or too late."

District Chair Lynn Sager called for attention several times, struggling to make herself heard. Eventually a microphone was brought out.

"The main thing is, most years there are a hundred people. This year, thousands. It's a party function, not a state function. There is going to be some confusion."

Outside the hall, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, who made national headlines by resigning her post as vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee in order to campaign for Bernie Sanders, moved easily along a shady courtyard shaking hands and chatting with voters.

"There's a clear difference between Bernie and Hillary," said Gabbard, an Iraq War Veteran and first term congresswoman. "This election is about war and peace - in Libya and Syria."

Gabbard's vocal support of Sanders and break with the congressional delegation's support of Clinton prompted at least one veteran party member and Clinton supporter to quip that Gabbard seems to be angling for the V.P. nomination. "She doesn't stay in one place for long," she said, referring to Gabbard's stints as State Congresswoman, soldier, Akaka staffer, city councilwoman.

On Friday night Gabbard held a rally at the Republik nightclub in Honolulu, which included live music and spoken word performances aimed at attracting young voters who are seen as integral to Sander's chances in Hawaii.

Despite the conventional wisdom, Sanders seems to have broad support here, among the young and old, women and men. And there is a feeling that Sander's upstart campaign has a chance in a state that traditionally values continuity.

"Bernie has the aloha spirit," said a young woman, a first-time voter.

Jan Mitchell, a Hawaii transplant of thirty some years believes Sanders appeals to the middle class. Here in Kailua, you have lots of working people. Look around." Indeed, there was a certain earthiness, 60s and millennial alike, largely attired in jeans, colorful sarongs, faded aloha shirts and "feel the Bern" tees.

"A lot is at stake in this election, said Jess, 26, a first time voter and Sanders supporter, Next to her a 75-year old supporter her held up an article entitled "6 misconceptions about Bernie Sanders."

"He's too old," the woman scoffed.

Eventually everyone's vote was collected. One middle aged Hawaiian couple brought up the end of the line with that sweet disposition they have here. And party stalwarts waited for the party meeting to begin.

"Some of these people you'll never see again," said Leigh Prentiss, a community activist and long time resident. "Who am I for? Hillary. Because she can win a convention and the election. Look, Bernie is a lovely old guy, but he can't win."

CNS reporters June Williams, in Seattle, Julie St. Louis, in Anchorage, Alaska, and Nicholas Fillmore in Hawaii, contributed to this report.

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