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Democrats rally for Saturday caucus

Judge Helbling, left, confers with Court Administrator Kathy Seymour and Court Clerk Geri Resch during a court session. Photo by Dennis Box -
Judge Helbling, left, confers with Court Administrator Kathy Seymour and Court Clerk Geri Resch during a court session. Photo by Dennis Box
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By Dennis Box, The Courier-Herald

Questions, coffee and an air of excitement filled the room at Lake Tapps Middle School on Saturday for the Democratic presidential caucus.

Members of 14 precincts from the Bonney Lake/Lake Tapps area huddled around tables in the school auditorium, voting for their candidate and selecting delegates to go on the legislative caucus.

The final tally for this caucus was U.S. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, 26; former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, 25; U.S Sen. John Edwards from South Carolina, seven; retired U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark and Rep. Dennis Kucinich from Ohio, two each.

The push and pull of grassroots politics was evident as members discussed the candidate's strengths and weaknesses and worked through the caucus rules.

"I seem to be the only one who remembers how we did this two years ago," a smiling Kent Sprague said. He is the 31st Legislative District Chairman. "But I'm pleasantly surprised with the attendance. I think we have over 100 here today and last time we had about a dozen," he said. "The people are friendly and I don't think there's too much confusion. It's really a good opportunity to discuss the issues and the candidates."

It took some talk and figuring to ferret through the complex caucus rules, but there was genuine sense of political connection in the room.

"This is brand new to me," Norm Tate said. "There's some confusion, but I think the process is going along OK. This it democracy in action."

Tate, an Edwards supporter, lives on Driftwood Point and represented precinct 31-639. His precinct had only one member, while precinct, 31-640, had 31 members attend.

Flo Ariessohn, an articulate Dean supporter from precinct 31-342, passed banana bread and friendship bread around the room while she talked about her candidate, the caucus and getting rid of President Bush.

"I think it's a great process. It really is grassroots." Ariessohn said. "It's limited because so many people can't attend, but for the people who came it's exhilarating. The more people involved the more fun it is."

The people attending ranged from young voters to senior citizens, each with solid ideas about their candidate, and the big picture - how the Democrats can take back the White House.

"For me it's fun to come and talk politics," said Shaun Wood said, a 19-year-old University of Washington student studying political science and anthropology. "The process is elitist and leaves out voters that don't want to get up and come out here. But there are too many Republicans around her so I thought I'd come back and help the Democrats."

Wood supported Dean and hopes he will hang on until the California and New York primaries.

"He's in second place," Wood said. "But the media never reports that. I think he will do well if he stays in the primaries."

Ed Davis from precinct 31-640, a Kerry supporter, has been involved in caucuses in other states, but this was his first in Washington.

"If there's a good turnout, a caucus is a good thing," Davis said. "This one has been great, we just want more people to take part. The main thing here is to beat Bush."

A concern voiced by many members about the caucus process was getting enough people to the meeting. Some felt holding the caucus on Saturday rather than a weekday caused fewer people to attend.

"It's very important for us to get people involved," Felice Davis from precinct 31-640 said. "I attended the caucus workshop and that clarified the process and made me more interested. It's fun to see who your fellow Democrats are."

The caucus lasted about two hours and as the room cleared and people headed to their cars, they took with them a sense of shared political community.

"This is new to a lot of these people," Sprague said. "We want them to walk away with a good experience. It think overall it went smoothly and there's a lot of interest in the next steps."

Across the state the caucus vote gave Kerry 49 percent, Dean 30, Kucinich 8, Edwards 7 and Clark 3.

Dennis Box can be reached at dbox@courierherald.com.

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