Local Democrats prepare for caucuses, opportunity to shape party priorities

April 10, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

Caucusgoers could change state and, perhaps, national policies as Washington Democrats gather for caucuses April 15.

President Barack Obama is the standard bearer for the Democrats in November, but although the party is not in the midst of a nomination fight, caucusgoers can still influence local, state and national issues by shaping the Democratic Party platform. Caucusgoers can present resolutions on political issues for consideration at local, state and national party gatherings.

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

Get involved

Democratic Party officials recommend people interested in joining the April 15 precinct caucuses use the state Caucus Finder at www.wa-democrats.org/caucuses.

Registration for the caucuses starts at noon and the caucuses start at 1 p.m.

5th Legislative District caucus sites 

  • Challenger Elementary School, 25200 S.E. Klahanie Blvd.
  • Snoqualmie Middle School, 9200 Railroad Ave.
  • Tahoma Junior High School, 25600 S.E. Summit Landsburg Road
  • Carnation Elementary School, 4950 Tolt Ave.

Washington does not have partisan voter registration, but you must be willing to sign a form declaring yourself a Democrat at the caucus site.

The state is sliced into about 6,700 precincts. Residents gather for caucuses depending on precinct location.

The precinct caucuses start a multistep process to elect delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., from Sept. 3-6. In the Tar Heel State — a general election battleground — the party is expected to nominate Obama. The party platform is also completed and adopted at the convention.

Come caucus Sunday, participants elect delegates and alternates to legislative district caucuses and the county convention.

“It’s the ladder,” 5th District Democrats Chairman Jim Baum said. “People interested in going up the ladder to the state convention and the national convention, this is where they start. This is where the process starts.”

Then, at the legislative district caucuses April 28, Democrats elect delegates and alternates to congressional district caucuses. Organizations in King County and elsewhere plan to hold county conventions April 29.

The congressional district caucuses unfold May 20. Democrats elect delegates and alternates to the national convention at the congressional district caucuses. (Issaquah is in the 8th Congressional District.)

Washington sends 121 delegates and nine alternates to the national convention.

“This is the democratic process,” said Scott Williams, 5th District Democrats communications director. “If you want to make your voice heard, you need to get in there and elect the people who support the same positions you support. That’s what this whole process is all about.”

Democrats at the state convention — scheduled for June 1-3 in Seattle — adopt a party platform.

Organizers said to expect lower-profile precinct caucuses, unlike the drama in 2008 — as Democrats refereed the nomination battle between Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Obama clinched the Washington caucuses in 2008 and carried the Evergreen State in the general election.)

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. The primary is scheduled to resume in 2016.

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

In March, a record 50,764 caucusgoers participated in the state GOP straw poll. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney ranked as the top choice among in the local legislative district and statewide.

Officials attributed the turnout to the canceled primary and intense interest in the Republican nomination fight.

Democrats could face a challenge to boost caucus turnout for reasons beyond the party’s control.

“It’s two days before your taxes are due, it’s the first Sunday of the first Mariners home game, it’s a month into spring, and we don’t really have a contested race,” Baum said.

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

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