District Democratic causus draws a Bernie crowd

They jammed the parking lot, packed the small gymnasium and formed a long line that spilled into the narrow hallway and surrounded the front of the building.

A large crowd assembled at the Kent Phoenix Academy on Saturday for the 47th Legislative District Democrats Presidential Caucus.

They jammed the parking lot, packed the small gymnasium and formed a long line that spilled into the narrow hallway and surrounded the front of the building.

All for a chance to be included and to be heard.

The 47th Legislative District Democrats Presidential Caucus at the Kent Phoenix Academy on Saturday was an unprecedented success, organizers say, a blue-blooded party celebration that joined overwhelming statewide support for Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator who is battling front-runner Hillary Clinton for the nomination.

“It was a crazy turnout. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before,” said Bailey Stober, chair of the 47th District Democrats. “I’m sure we beat the ’08 numbers.”

By Stober’s estimation, the district’s caucus drew more than 2,000 supporters.

“There was a little frustration, given parking,” Stober said, “but outside of that, everyone was in a pretty good mood.”

The academy on East Hill was among 500 locations throughout the state that hosted Democratic precinct caucuses. They gathered at local schools, libraries or other public spaces places where neighbors and strangers met to listen and explain why they supported one candidate over another.

The 47th District and its 135 precincts, representing Kent, Auburn, Covington and parts of unincorporated King Couny, spoke loudly Saturday 3-to-1 in favor of Sanders, who was declared the Washington caucus winner by claiming 72 percent of the delegates.

“Definitely, Washington is feeling the Bern,” said one sign-waving supporter. “There’s definitely a commitment to change.”

A total of 101 state delegates was up for grabs to the Democratic National Convention, which will be distributed proportionately between the candidates, based on caucus results.

Voters from all walks came to pledge their support for each side.

“It’s pretty unprecedented, the turnout,” said Brandon Dotson, a precinct captain who held his group’s discussion, among others, in the parking lot because of the overflow of participants. “I saw a lot of new voters, people who before this election season had not learned what the caucus actually entails.”

The caucus provided interesting insight into the political process.

“There was a lot of good discussion no anger,” said Auburn’s Vicki Burris.

Not everyone left the caucus satisfied.

“Not too many of us (supporters) here today,” summed up Lee Lana, carrying a Clinton sign.

Stober, who is familiar with the campaign climate, interprets the strong support for Sanders as a call for change in both Washingtons.

“What you are seeing is people being fed up with the status quo,” Stober said. “You have literally millions of Americans who are tired of the gridlock in Congress. And frankly, here in Washington, we started to see similar gridlock in Olympia. And you have voters who are tired of electing officials who go down, lock horns with opponents, and they don’t actually get things done.

“There was definitely a strong Bernie crowd here today,” Stober added. “The Bernie camp reminds me of the Obama campaign with the energy they had (in 2008), but the numbers weren’t this big.”

Delegates from statewide caucuses, such as District 47, were chosen to attend upcoming county and legislative caucuses. It is the first step in determining delegates to the national convention, set for July 25-28 in Philadelphia. The large pool of selected delegates eventually will be trimmed to the final 67 to represent the state at the national convention.

According to the District 47 website, the next caucus for selected delegates is 1 p.m. April 17 at the Kent Phoenix Academy.

PHOTO BELOW: Brandon Dotson, with clipboard, leads a precinct caucus discussion in the parking lot.
MARK KLAAS, Reporter

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