Local Republicans gear up for caucuses, a chance to pick presidential nominee

February 7, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

Local Republicans could tilt the national contest to nominate a GOP challenger to President Barack Obama, as residents across Washington gather for caucuses early next month.

King County Republican Party officials and Republicans statewide plan to hold caucuses March 3. Interest in the caucuses is high, party officials said, amid a spirited nomination battle.

Get involved

Local Republican leaders expect a crowd for the March 3 caucuses to help determine the GOP nominee for president.

Registration for the caucuses starts at 9 a.m. and the caucuses start at 10 a.m.

If a voter intends to participate in the process, he or she must bring identification and proof of voter registration to the caucus site. A voter must caucus in the precinct where he or she is registered to vote. (King County voter registration cards contain precinct information.)

Washington does not have partisan voter registration, but you must be willing to sign a form declaring you “consider yourself to be a Republican” at the caucus site, and also agree not to participate in any other party’s 2012 nominating caucuses.

The increased interest in the caucuses prompted the King County Republican Party to develop a caucus locator for people interested in the process, www.kcgop.org/caucus-locator. Or call 990-0404 for caucus sites.

5th Legislative District caucus sites

Downtown Issaquah

  • Issaquah Valley Elementary School
  • 555 N.W. Holly St., Issaquah

Maple Valley and communities south and west of Issaquah

  • Tahoma Junior High School
  • 25600 Summit Landsburg Road, Ravensdale

Providence Point

  • Collin Hall
  • 4135 Providence Point Drive S.E., Issaquah

Sammamish and Issaquah addresses on the Sammamish Plateau

  • Discovery Elementary School
  • 2300 228th Ave. S.E., Sammamish

Snoqualmie Valley and Preston

  • Mount Si High School Commons
  • 8651 Meadowbrook Road, Snoqualmie

In King County, GOP leaders plan to group multiple precincts at central caucus locations. (Downtown Issaquah residents, for instance, should gather at Issaquah Valley Elementary School.) The consolidation is meant to reduce confusion among potential caucusgoers.

Officials organized caucus sites at locations throughout the 5th Legislative District — schools and a community hall. The district stretches from Issaquah to the Snoqualmie Pass, and from Sammamish to Maple Valley.

The rough-and-tumble contest for the GOP nomination means Washington could offer a crucial boost to a candidate. In 2008, Democrats still faced a nomination clash between Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, but John McCain emerged as the presumptive Republican nominee long before the Evergreen State caucuses.

“Washington is generally out of the loop,” Issaquah political consultant Terry LaBrue said. “The northwest corner of the U.S. is considered deep blue country. We’re not a player.”

But the potential for a long road to the nomination — and a chance to put a stamp on the state-by-state campaign — boosted voter interest.

“Fortunately or unfortunately, it seems as though everything for politics has kicked into gear six months early,” said Bob Brunjes, 5th District GOP chairman and a Snoqualmie resident. “We’re getting unprecedented calls. People are calling and wanting to know where to go and wanting to know what the process is.”

State legislators suspended the 2012 presidential primary in order to save the cash-strapped state about $10 million, although the primary generated more interest among voters.

In 2008, fewer than 100,000 people participated in caucuses statewide, but 1.4 million voters cast ballots in the primary.

(Local Democrats plan to hold caucuses April 15, but Obama does not face a challenge for the nomination.)

Come caucus Saturday, participants select a candidate in a straw poll and then elect candidate delegates to the county convention. The straw poll is meant as a snapshot of candidates’ support. The delegates elected to the convention determine actual support.

State GOP leaders use results from caucuses and party conventions to gauge support for candidates, and then — at the state convention — elect delegates to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.

The local party is planning for the caucus crowd to double from 2008. Organizers also expect to see a shift in caucusgoers.

“The demographic is a lot younger now,” Brunjes said. “It truly is the moms and dads in their late 30s and early 40s. They’re much more involved than they ever have been.”

The local affair differs from the most-celebrated caucus: Iowa, a quadrennial kickoff for presidential nomination clashes.

“We don’t have the candidates out here. We don’t have $6 million in television advertising. We don’t have the satellite TV dishes or the candidates’ buses,” LaBrue said. “It’s really low-key.”

How voters choose candidates is universal. Organizers said most caucusgoers conduct research beforehand and arrive prepared to discuss a chosen candidate.

“There are some people that philosophically support certain things. Some people support personalities. Some people decide on the spot — or change their mind,” LaBrue said. “I mean, it’s all possible.”

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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