Support for Romney prevails at Vashon's GOP caucus

Bruce Johns, center, makes a point during his caucus — the Lisabeula precinct — on Saturday. Brandon Sheard, left, holds his son Wallace while listening to the morning’s instructions. - Leslie Brown/Staff Photo
Bruce Johns, center, makes a point during his caucus — the Lisabeula precinct — on Saturday. Brandon Sheard, left, holds his son Wallace while listening to the morning’s instructions.
— image credit: Leslie Brown/Staff Photo

More than 100 people turned out for Vashon’s Republican precinct caucuses on Saturday, where passion for Ron Paul ran strong but where Mitt Romney ultimately emerged the victor in the non-binding straw poll vote.

According to an unofficial count at the Vashon High School, where the caucuses for Vashon’s 19 precincts were held, Romney got 34 votes; Rick Santorum won 23 votes; Paul secured 20 votes, and Newt Gingrich came in a distant fourth place, with five votes.

The straw poll is considered a non-binding beauty contest; what counts are the Island’s 36 delegates, who were also elected Saturday morning and who will move on to the 34th Legislative District caucus and a countywide caucus. Ultimately, a state convention, to be held May 31 in Tacoma, will select the delegates to send to the August Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.

The number of delegates pledged to the various candidates, however, has yet to be released by the state Republican Party.

“There’s a lot of paperwork involved. It’s going to take some time,” Jim Clingan, who chairs the 34th District Republicans, said Monday.

Vashon’s straw poll numbers, meanwhile, were similar to those statewide. According to the Associated Press, Romney garnered 38 percent of the straw poll vote in Washington, followed by Paul with 25 percent, Santorum with 24 percent and Gingrich with 10 percent.

Romney won the most votes in 25 of the state’s 39 caucuses; Paul took nine counties, and Santorum four, the AP reports.

On Vashon, some Islanders expressed a clear preference for Romney. “Ron Paul is not well-rounded enough for me,” Len Lofland said shortly before his precinct caucus was to start.

Doug Ostrom, another Islander, said he was voting for U.S. Rep. Olympia Snowe of Maine, a politician who could get things done in Washington, D.C., he said, “because she’s willing to cross party lines.”

But if passion were the measure, Paul seemed to dominate. Placards in support of the libertarian-styled candidate dotted the VHS parking lot and cafeteria, where the dozens of Islanders gathered to caucus. Several people sported buttons emblazoned with his name.

A reporter wasn’t allowed to sit at the tables where the precinct caucuses were occurring and listen to the discussions. (In other parts of the state, such access was allowed.) But in interviews before and after the caucus, several caucus-goers expressed strong support for Paul.

Richard Sanders, a former state Supreme Court justice, was sitting at the Dockton table, dressed in a dark blue blazer. Just the day before, he had introduced Paul to a crowd in Vancouver, Wash.

“He’s the most consistent of the candidates,” Sanders said, noting Paul’s support of civil liberties and his opposition to undeclared wars. “What’s not to like?”

Brandon Sheard, another Paul supporter, wore a Paul button in his knit hat and held his toddler in his arms. A bearded man with a back-to-the-land manner, he said he’s one of many young people who has flocked to Paul’s candidacy because of his strong anti-war stance.

“For us, the biggest thing is the foreign policy. Get out of the wars. Stop all the killing,” he said.

His wife, Lauren Sheard, agreed. “I’m a pacifist,” she said. “A lot of Ron Paul’s support comes from the youth.”

There was some upset at the caucus, when another young man, Graham Nayler, dressed in a suit and sporting a Paul button, stood up and asked that a representative for each candidate be allowed to give a two-minute speech in support of their candidate.

Nayler, an organizer in the Paul campaign, had already lined up Sanders to speak in support of Paul.

But Brian Vance, elected to chair the pooled caucus that morning, denied the request, noting that it was already 10:30 and, by GOP rules, that’s when the actual caucuses were to start.

Nayler, speaking after the caucus had ended, said he was unhappy with Vance’s decision. He called the state party to complain, he said. “It was a violation of state GOP rules,” he said.

Even so, Nayler said, he believes Paul secured a lot of the delegates Saturday morning — a strategy the Paul campaign has used in other states, such as Maine, where there’s both a straw poll and an election of delegates.

Nayler had sheets from some of Vashon’s other precincts that showed both the vote total and the delegate selection, and in several instances, the two delegates selected were Paul supporters even though he hadn’t won the most votes.

“We have more committed support,” Nayler said. “That’s what the media is missing.”

Vance, for his part, said he would have allowed Nayler’s request had he made the motion sooner. “I was bound by the rules that we had to start at 10:30,” he said.

Overall, he added, he thought the morning went well.

“It was a good turnout,” he said. “People are excited about their candidate.”


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