During the 2008 Washington State Democratic caucus, I supported Hillary Clinton. I spoke up for her at my precinct caucus at Kopachuck Middle School. A petite, well-spoken woman I didn’t know advocated for Barack Obama. It was tough to see the majority of my friends and neighbors cast their ballots for Obama. Still, I ended up campaigning for him — even wrote a column supporting him — and became fast friends with Sandy, the woman who’d spoken for Obama. We were thrilled when he won.
This year, I’m a Bernie Sanders supporter, not because I oppose Hillary, but because Senator Sanders consistently stands for policies that I believe America desperately needs.
The senator is not a new political figure to me. I listened to progressive radio station AM 1090 from 2006 until it became a sports station in 2013. During that time, talk show host Thom Hartmann had Bernie on every week. He called it “Brunch with Bernie.” Sanders treated the listeners who called in with respect, and answered their questions with clarity. He expressed grave concern over the ever-increasing income inequality in America, as well as other pressing issues. In 2010 Sanders gave an 8½-hour speech on the Senate floor, filibustering a vote that would give the extremely wealthy special tax breaks.
This year I was asked to be my precinct’s caucus chair because our precinct didn’t have a previously elected precinct committee officer (PCO). My friend Sandy, a Bernie supporter, now lives in a different precinct due to redistricting. She agreed to chair her precinct, too. In our training session, and at the caucus, we were told that our roles as chairs obliged us to stay neutral until the final tally was completed and delegate selection began.
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So, Saturday morning at Goodman Middle School, Sandy and I stood at a long table in front of our precinct maps with other volunteers and PCOs. There was an extremely long line outside, and luckily the weather was clear. When the doors opened, voters poured in, ballots in hand. It was exciting to see such a turnout, and to recognize so many people in the crowd. There was a real esprit de corps.
During a brief meeting in the packed school auditorium — there were more than 900 people there — we heard from Democratic leaders who reside in our area: Todd Iverson, Derek Kilmer, Larry Seaquist and Derek Young. Then we dispersed to our to separate rooms at the school. I had a script to follow, and everyone was patient and supportive as we worked through the process.
We chose a secretary and a tally clerk, and then we tallied the ballots. We discussed the candidates with mutual respect and civility. No one spoke against either candidate but pointed out why their choice most stood for Democratic principles, as well as who was most likely to lead us to victory in November. After the discussion, anyone could change their vote, or decide, if they had been undecided.
We had 29 people in our meeting, and six ballots from voters who could not attend due to military service, work or disability. Our precinct was allotted six delegate slots. Of our 35 ballots, our final tally was 24 for Bernie and 11 for Hillary. That translated into four delegates for Bernie and two for Hillary. Now we divided up and chose delegates and alternates for our candidates. Being a delegate commits you to future meetings with the possibility of going to the Democratic Convention in July. My husband committed to be a Bernie delegate!
Bernie won Washington with 73 percent of the votes. Whether or not he becomes our Democratic nominee, I will be forever grateful to him for his brave campaign.
Reach Mary Magee at firstname.lastname@example.org.