Hillary Clinton achieved victory — albeit narrower than expected — in Nevada’s Democratic caucuses.
But not in Carson City where a surprise turnout by Bernie Sanders supporters overwhelmed her carefully groomed ground game.
Carson City party officials who earlier predicted a lackluster Democratic caucus turnout were in no way prepared for the more than 1,300 people who showed up at Carson High School Saturday.
Even though they opened the doors at 10:30 a.m., a half hour early, it took almost two hours to register the crowd, forcing early arrivals to sit and wait until everyone was inside.
And the obvious difference was the number of Bernie Sanders supporters who showed up early. Observers had predicted a weak turnout in part because, they argued, Sanders didn’t have the well-developed organization Clinton troops put together starting in April.
The final tally was 86 county convention delegates for Sanders, 83 for Clinton. But since Clark County is where 72 percent of Nevada voters live and home to the vast majority of Hispanic and black voters who are considered strong Clinton backers, she achieved an overall victory in the state.
That victory, however, is far closer than her team — which just three months ago had a double-digit lead in the polls — wanted or expected to see.
Carson Democratic party chair Marty McGarry said Carson officials just didn’t see the huge turnout coming and weren’t prepared to handle it.
At Carson Middle School close to a thousand turned out for the caucuses there, causing long lines much like the high school.
Those standing in line early at CHS were overwhelmingly for Sanders, flooding into the main entrance to the high school. The Hillary supporters also showed up in force but were unable to beat back the enthusiastic backers of the Vermont Senator and self-described Democratic Socialist.
Carson City wasn’t alone. Only Clark, Douglas, Mineral, Nye. Lincoln and White Pine went for Clinton — the other 11 Nevada counties either tied or went for Sanders.
That victory was made narrower than the raw delegate votes by the rounding process. In precinct 201, for example, Sanders won 52 votes to Clinton’s 38. With six county delegates at stake, that gave him 3.43 delegates to Clinton’s 2.51. But, with rounding they ended up tied in that precinct.
Similar things happened in a number of districts because of rounding as Carson Democrats plowed through the process of selecting 169 county convention delegates.
Once everyone was in the door and found their precinct, the actual caucus votes took less than 30 minutes except for a couple of precincts.
Among the early arrivals, Bob Hume said he was for Sanders in part because he was disappointed with Bill Clinton’s administration: “He was way too aligned with business.”
“I have tremendous respect for the stands he has taken for years,” he said. “But Hillary has moved to the left because of Bernie, and I like that.”
“I haven’t liked Clinton’s policies since we first came home from overseas in 1988,” said Sanders supporter Margaret Kenres. “I think she will do more harm than good and (I am for Sanders because) I am looking for a semi-degree of honesty.”
“I see Bernie as change,” said Miloslav Georgiev, who immigrated from Bulgaria when he was 12.
Ed Skudlarek said he respects Sanders’ “depth of character, his honesty” — a common theme among his supporters.
But one attendee who identified herself only as Phoenix said Clinton is ‘better equipped to handle the job.”
Bob Gagnier, former head of the State of Nevada Employees Association, said he too backs Clinton.
“Ideologically, I’m with Bernie but I don’t think he has a chance of winning,” he said.
Others were looking at the single issues.
“I believe Sanders is the most honest and he is the real deal,” said Roxie Duer, who said she’s really looking at healthcare initiatives in this election. “He’s really making people take a look at the way young people want the world to be.”
Health care isn’t important for just Sanders supporters, Clinton voters also believe she will be more beneficial in the White House to handle those initiatives.
“I like Sanders’ position, but I don’t think that there is a chance it will be enact-able given the polarity in Congress,” said Joseph Neiman. “I like both but Hillary is a pragmatist and will get things done. I think healthcare is important and we need someone who will be able to unite the country with less divisiveness to politics.”
Others said they like the experience Clinton brings to the election with her positions in numerous offices in her career.
“I’m for Clinton because of the experience she has,” said Shirley Oxoby. “She has contacts with her job as First Lady, Secretary of State and Senator and she has had a message that has been consistent for child issues, civil rights and feminist issues.”
Party volunteer Laura Barrett said one man came to her and said he’s a registered Republican “but crossing over to vote for Bernie.”
Delores Wenzel said she backs Clinton because Sanders “is in la-la land.”
“He’s hoping to make a change but it’s not going to happen,” Wenzel said.
Deloris Luster was one of the few interviewed who said she was still making up her mind: “I’m kind of on the fence.”
Her grandmother Mary, however, was sporting a Hillary button.
“I believe she has the experience, knowledge and the fight to do a good job for us,” she said.
Most people who attended the caucuses knew which candidate they were leaning toward; however there were several people who were unsure who they felt would represent the Democrats best.
For Alyssa Jensick, she was torn between who she felt would be best in the presidential election. Though she ended up giving her vote to Clinton, she was still unsure which candidate she liked better.
“I voted Clinton because of electability,” Jensick said. “I feel like Sanders is more genuine, he speaks more to my heart and I like that he is a grassroots campaign, but I just don’t know, if up against the Republicans, if he would win. I would love to see a woman in office though.”
At the end of the day, many supporters agreed no matter who won, everyone there was at the caucuses to support the same goals.
“We all want what’s just best for the country,” said Clinton precinct captain Robin Hager.
There were only a few glitches reported in the actual caucusing. In precinct 209, a couple of Sanders supporters left after being told their votes could still count. “I don’t know who told them that because they cannot be counted,” McGarry said.
She said it’s too bad they didn’t have one more Clinton supporter because 209 could then have been a tie at 23 votes apiece. As it was, again because of rounding, Clinton got two delegates and Sanders three.
“If we had one more person, we could have drawn cards,” she said. Nevada law says such ties are decided by high card drawn.
“That would have been fun,” she said.