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High hopes, high energy at caucuses

Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter Mercer Island Democrat caucus-goers take direction from the council chair, Bill Hochberg.  -
Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter Mercer Island Democrat caucus-goers take direction from the council chair, Bill Hochberg.
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The doorway to the Island Park Elementary School gymnasium became a traffic-jam of people yesterday as folks shuffled in to participate in the Democratic caucus.

Island Park represented 10 precincts of the Mercer Island area and was one of four caucus locations in Mercer Island. The caucuses, scheduled to start around 1 p.m., all ended around 4 p.m. after delegates were allotted and representatives were chosen to go onto the county caucus level in support of their candidate.

“It’s very encouraging, very inspiring to see people come out,” said Bob Fahrer, a 10-year resident of Mercer Island. Fahrer came out in support of Sen. Barack Obama, who he proclaimed “harkens back to John F. Kennedy. He represents the freshness of what politics ought to be.”

Howard Miller, a 51-year Island resident, also expressed his excitement in seeing the high turnout at the caucus, explaining that Mercer Island has been “extremely conservative for all these years.”

The energy in both the Island Park Elementary and West Mercer Elementary caucuses was high, and passionate participants came out for both Obama and Clinton.

“Hillary is the smartest candidate in the race, and she’s the best to beat McCain,” said Patricia Bostrom, an 11-year Mercer Island resident and Clinton campaigner. “She has a plan for what to do, how to do it, and how to pay for it. She will be ready on day one.”

Bostrom was caucusing and campaigning for Clinton at Island Park, along with Kasha Rogovy, a 31-year Mercer Islander, Obama campaigner and volunteer.

“Barack Obama offers a way to end the bitterness tearing this country apart,” Rogovy stated passionately. “He offers a chance for Democrats, Republicans and independents to come together.”

As has been a national trend, many Clinton supporters argued for Clinton based upon the New York Senator’s experience, while many Obama supporters used the words “hope” and “inspiration” to describe the Illinois senator.

“Inspiring” was the word used to describe this year’s Democratic caucus by Ron Feinberg, an Island resident out caucusing at West Mercer Elementary.

West Mercer, where 300 voters turned out, was the location for 13 Island precincts.

In the 41st district, 622 delegates were awarded to Obama and 252 went to Clinton.

The entire district — minus the final count of one precinct — had a total of 8,106 participants, roughly three times more than the 2004 caucuses, according to the 41st District Democrats Web site. Statewide, Obama received over 67 percent of the delegates, totaling 21,629 votes. Clinton received 9,992 votes.

Three of the 13 precincts present had to move from the gymnasium to classrooms for lack of space.

Feinberg, who attended the 2004 caucus, said the energy of the room was on a different level than in 2004. Feinberg, whose son attends the University of Washington and had himself organized about 20 of his friends to attend caucuses Saturday, was astounded by the energy surrounding youth voters.

By mid-afternoon, the general consensus throughout the caucus was a two-to-one delegate win in each precinct for Sen. Barack Obama over Sen.. Hillary Clinton.

The caucus process was praised by many for its democratic nature.

“This is the democratic process, meaning everyone gets to talk,” Dan Bean, a precinct captain, told his group.

“I wanted to help the process because this is one of the most exciting times of my lifetime,” Bean explained when asked why he volunteered to be a captain.

Bean was overwhelmed by the number of first-time caucus goers in his group. He estimated that 80 percent were first-time participants.

Kathleen Miller is a University of Washington News Lab student.

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