Campaigning for presidential candidates is ramping into overdrive prior to the state caucuses to determine who will be their top picks going into each political party’s convention.
First up will be the Democrats who will conduct their caucus Saturday morning beginning at 10:30 a.m. at the Wolf Center behind Epworth United Methodist Church. In exercising a procedure that tugs at the grassroots to select the best candidate, voters have two choices: Former first lady, New York senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Chairperson Nyla Howell of the Churchill County Democrats said planning for the caucus has been coming together with training not only for precinct captains but also for the general public. In January, Howell and several members of the Churchill County committee, along with Assemblywoman Robin Titus, R-Smith Valley, gave an overview on the process to Fallon’s high school seniors.
“Our biggest problem is how many to expect,” she said Wednesday. “We could have from 380 to 800 people.”
This would represent between 15-30 percent of the registered Democratic voters in Churchill County. In 2008, Howell estimated about 900 would attend the caucus but 1,200 arrived, ready to choose their favorite candidate.
“We were sure surprised,” she said of the attendance.
The Churchill County Democrats had training eight days ago on the caucus procedures, which, according to Howell, invigorated the attendees.
Dr. Stuart Richardson, like Howell, doesn’t know what to expect Tuesday when the Republicans show up to debate, persuade and then select their candidates.
“I’m very impressed with the way the state (Nevada Republican Party) gave us packets for each precinct,” said Richardson, who was recently elected as chairman of the Churchill County Central Republican Committee.
The Republicans will caucus between 5-7 p.m. on Tuesday with precincts 1-6 reporting to the Dry Gulch at the fairgrounds. Precincts 7-19 will assemble at the multipurpose building north of the Dry Gulch.
Richardson said if he uses the estimates for registered Republicans voting in a primary election, the county could expect between 1,000 to 3,000 attending the caucus.
Richardson, though, remains optimistic for a strong turnout considering the number of Republicans presidential candidates still standing with the build-up leading to South Carolina’s primary on Saturday.
“The picture will be a lot clearer after Tuesday,” Richardson predicts.
He said after every primary, at least one or two candidates drop out.
The caucus has drawn interest from many Churchill County residents for this election cycle. Sharon Hedges-Hiller said she supported Clinton in 2008 but will be in Sanders’s corner at this year’s caucus.
“Bernie is a progressive, and this is what this country needs,” Hedges-Hiller said, adding the middle class has ceased to exist. “I believe Hillary is a moderate and never has been a progressive.”
Although Clinton has been touting herself as a progressive, Hedges-Hiller said the candidate would revert back to being a moderate if she wins the nomination.
Hedges-Hiller said the caucus is an interesting process that many people don’t understand.
“It takes patience to grasp what it is,” she said.
The caucus, however, gives people the opportunity to make a positive difference, she added.
Nate Helton, a Hillary Clinton supporter, favored then-Sen. Barack Obama in 2008, but over the years he has appreciated her more.
“I support her, and I’ll caucus for her,” said the Churchill County High School and University of Nevada, Reno graduate.
Helton, who was involved with the Young Democrats in high school, said he saw Clinton at a veterans’ roundtable, but he hasn’t been able to attend many of her events.
“I’ve been knocking on doors and persuading Democrats to caucus,” he said. “It’s been going well. A lot of people are interested in the caucus.”
Kelly Frost, a government teacher and adviser for the Young Republicans at Churchill County High School, said students appear to be more excited with the process.
“Many students have registered to vote and are anxious about the caucus,” she said.
With the number of contenders visiting Northern Nevada, Frost said many of her students have driven to Reno to see Donald Trump. Others attended a rally for Marco Rubio when he visited Fallon on Sept. 1.
She said the yearbook staff has been conducting a poll with Rubio leading the candidates.
“It will be an interesting election,” Frost added.
County Commissioner Bus Scharmann assisted in Rubio’s visit to Fallon. He feels the Nevada caucus results will come down to Trump, Cruz and Rubio.
“It’s hard to break that group,” he said. “But I am hoping that folks give a look at Rubio and support this young man,” Scharmann said.
Scharmann, like others, want a candidate who will spearhead a drive to transfer more federal lands to the states.
Jim Falk, secretary for the local Tea Party, said he is leaning toward Trump because the New York billionaire is seeing how important the land transfer is.
“I am pleased and confident that he is seeing the light with this,” Falk said.