Santorum sweeps Peninsula

Peninsula Republicans chose Rick Santorum as their candidate to challenge President Barack Obama in November’s election, local party leaders announced Tuesday after the statewide and area presidential preference polls closed.

Total among the area’s three districts, Santorum, a former Pennsylvania Senator, received 675 votes Tuesday over Mitt Romney’s 528, Ron Paul’s 323 and Newt Gingrich’s 279.

In total 1,805 Republicans voted across the Peninsula — 615 in District 28 (Nikiski, Ridgeway, Sterling, Seward), 452 in District 29 (Soldotna, Kenai) and 738 in District 30 (Kasilof, Anchor Point, Ninilchik, Homer.)

“I think it is about what we figured turnout-wise,” said local Republican organizer Dale Bagley.

Alaska had 24 delegates up for grabs in the presidential preference poll, which was one of 10 contests hosted on Super Tuesday. Allocation of Alaska’s 27 delegates will be proportional, save for three delegates — state party leaders — who will attend the national convention as unpledged.

In all local districts Santorum edged Romney, most narrowly in District 29 where only six votes separated the candidates. Paul and Gingrich came in third and fourth in all districts, respectively. Paul showed best in District 30, pulling 136 of the total 738 votes cast there. Santorum showed best in District 28 with 244 of the 615 total votes cast.

Central Peninsula voters packed Peninsula Grace Brethren Church on Kalifornsky Beach Road to make their selections Tuesday.

Among those voters was Kenai resident Rick Gray who thought the discourse between all of the GOP’s candidates wasn’t helping any of them, he said.

“They are killing themselves before they ever get to the presidential race,” said the 46-year-old voter.

Gray said he was swaying toward voting for Gingrich, but ended up siding with Romney. He said Gingrich had too much “baggage” and Romney “has to be” the GOP’s choice.

“We’ve got to have somebody that is going to get Obama out of there and that’s my whole reason for going with Mitt,” he said. “He’s got the experience, way more than Santorum and he has got that old-fashioned moral background — I’m not that old, but it has been instilled in me.”

Robert Posey, of Soldotna, also voted for the front-runner Romney on Tuesday, but was disappointed the Republican Party hasn’t really had a “good choice” since Ronald Reagan.

Posey said he thought many voters were considering the economy and health care above other issues when deciding who to vote for. Specifically he said he wanted a candidate that would overturn health care reform, dubbed “Obamacare.”

“I can’t believe they passed it and they never really knew what they were voting for,” he said. “There are a bunch of lies about, ‘It is going to reduce your health care costs,’ but mine have gone up $200 a month since they passed it.”

Posey said he liked former contender Herman Cain, but felt he didn’t have the necessary experience.

“It has got to be somebody that isn’t a career politician, somebody that’s more in tune with businesses — our government is the biggest business in the country,” he said.

Posey said he doesn’t take Paul seriously as a candidate even though he likes some of his ideas.

“I like Ron Paul, but he is so far out in left field that I don’t think he’ll ever make it,” he said. “It is kind of a wasted vote on him I think.”

Kyle Shelton disagreed with Posey’s stance on Paul, who he voted for. The 28-year-old Soldotna voter said he sided with Paul because he “hasn’t changed.”

“Steady – I know what he is going to do,” he said, standing near the entrance of Grace Brethren. “I like his foreign policy. I think he has got a lot more delegates than everyone thinks and I think he is going to surprise a lot of people here in a couple of months.”

Shelton also predicted Gingrich would drop out of the race after a poor showing on Tuesday, or in the future, and many of his supporters would align with Paul. Shelton said he knows many Paul supporters on the Peninsula, particularly among younger voters.

“I just know the younger crowd is getting tired of politics,” he said.

He also likened Romney to the “Republican Obama” and said even if Paul didn’t get the nomination, getting his message out and folded into the debate is worth his vote.

“He is what America used to stand for,” Shelton said, citing Paul’s voting record.

Harold Engebretsen, of Soldotna, said he voted for Santorum for a number of reasons, including his ability to activate the conservative base — something he thought Paul lacked.

“He has proven himself able to drum up support from the average guy, from the middle class worker,” he said. “He doesn’t seem to cater to money.”

Engebretsen said it would be hard to say if Santorum would be able to take the nomination from front-runner Romney.

“It’s hard to say,” he said. “I would like to see him get there, but I’ll be a Republican all the way to the end no matter who gets the nomination at the end. I think three of the four candidates have a good chance of taking our current president out.”

 

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