A near split of Churchill County caucus goers gave former first lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a narrow two-point win over U.S. Bernie Sanders of Vermont on Saturday, 211-209.
“It was pretty much a tie here in Churchill County,” said Nyla Howell, chairwoman of the Churchill County Democrats as she explained the awarding of delegates to the county convention.
Each candidate was awarded 46 delegates, meaning 92 local Democrats will be able to vote at the county convention, which Howell said, is open to all Democrats.
According to The Associated Press, the state party’s initial estimates reveal about 80,000 Democrats caucused on Saturday, about 10,000 more than most expected but below the nearly 120,000 who showed up in 2008 when Clinton, then-Sen. Barack Obama and former 2004 vice-presidential candidate John Edwards competed against each other.
With 35 delegates at stake, Clinton, who won 53-47 percent, picks up at least 18 and Sanders 14. Three delegates remain to be allocated, based on votes in the congressional districts.
Voters began lining up well before the doors opened at 10:30 a.m. Howell said volunteers began to register individuals, but the actual caucus process did not start for another two hours.
“I was surprised by the turnout,” she said. “I was expecteing about 300, but we had 420, which did not include volunteers, observers or children with their parents.”
The long line of voters wrapped around Epworth United Methodist Church to Stillwater Avenue. The number of voters attending the Churchill County caucus, though, showed the intensity between the two groups of people supporting their candidates, a microcosm of similar scenes from around the state.
“The Republicans don’t have anyone with her background,” said Tim Orr of Fallon, who waited in line for almost an hour before entering the Wolf Center.
Orr said he is impressed with her background as a first lady and U.S. Senator, and especially how she performed her duties as secretary of state with countries who either liked or hated the United States. Orr doesn’t blame either Obama or Clinton for the perception the United States is a weaker country when dealing with foreign issues.
“Why does Russia think we are weak? Obama’s not weak. We are not working together,” Orr said of Congress’ inability to cross the aisle and work together.
Chuck Kaiser attended a kickoff breakfast in Fallon for Clinton in July and said his feelings remain positive for her and her campaign. Rachel Chitren, a high school senior, attended her first caucus. The 18-year-old said she is a Sanders’ supporter who likes his ideas.
“First thing I like is the free education (at the university level) and how honest he is … down to earth,” she said.
Chitren said she knows Sanders can’t fix everything, but she knows he will do as much as he can.
Kristine McNary, another Sanders’ supporter, said the Vermont senator makes the most practical sense to her, and she likes his honestly.
On the other hand, Sharon Van Nest said Clinton has the best credentials and will be the most solid candidate for the future.
Ginny Dugan agreed.
“Hillary is the most qualified candidate,” she said. “With her experience, she will make a great president.”
Mary Thomas thinks experience is crucial.
“She’s doing a great job,” Thomas added.
After the caucus goers crowded inside the Wolf Center, they discussed their candidates at their respective precinct tables. Howell said Churchill County has 19 precincts, yet all but one were covered by a precinct captain. She said a precinct captain had to take care of two precincts.
“We couldn’t combine the precincts, so he (the precinct captain) had to go back and forth,” Howell said.
Some expressed mixed feelings, however, on the format.
“This was my first caucus,” Bridgette Balke said. “I was expecting debate or more information on either candidate.”
Balke said she would prefer a primary election because it would be less confusing. Others chimed in saying the hours for the caucus precluded people from attending because of work or activities. For example, one lady who wished not to be identified said primary elections provide for absentee ballots and early voting.
Howell, though, pointed out the taxpayers would have to pay for a primary election whereas each political party foots the bill for the caucus.
Lahontan Valley News columnist Glen McAdoo said he was pleased with the turnout for both Clinton and Sanders. McAdoo, a Clinton supporter, said his precinct voted 4-2 in favor of Clinton.
Overall, though, McAdoo said he would prefer a caucus to a June election because the candidates from each party have been selected
“I would rather have a primary in January or February,” McAdoo said. “That would be best.”