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Voters make their choice

Polling session, caucus generate excitement

Posted: Wednesday, February 06, 2008

 

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  The line wraps out the door at the Republican presidential caucus at Peninsula Grace Brethren Church on Tuesday night as voters cast their choice for their candidate. Photo by M. Scott Moon

At left, Barack Obama supporters rally during the Democrat's "fan-out" election at the Soldotna Sports Center. Below, Rob Pigg casts his ballot in the Republican presidential caucus at Peninsula Grace Brethren Church Tuesday evening.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

Sixteen-year-old Maya Chay and her sister Freya were too young to cast their vote at the local Democratic caucus on Tuesday, but that didn't keep them from choosing a candidate to support and campaign for.

Maya, a junior at Kenai Central High School, and Freya, a seventh-grader at Aurora Borealis Charter School, were introduced to Barrack Obama during his speech that announced his candidacy for president. When they compared it to President Bush's State of the Union address and an interview they watched with Republican candidate Mitt Romney, Obama's message inspired them to organize meetings, hand out buttons, volunteer at the Democratic caucus and stand on a street-corner in the freezing cold waving signs.

"Every time I listen to a speech I cry 'He's the guy!' He's eloquent and powerful I was blown away." Maya said. She stood at the front of the room and marveled at the number of people who attended the caucus.

 

Rob Pigg casts his ballot in the Republican presidential caucus at Peninsula Grace Brethren Church Tuesday evening.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

"It's really exciting. I've never been to a caucus before," she said.

Despite Maya's youth, she wasn't the only one who attended her first caucus. For many local voters, even those who didn't consider themselves political before, participating in a presidential caucus or a preferential polling session was something new. Many who attended the Democratic caucus and Republican preferential polling session on Tuesday, a day when 22 other states choose their delegates, felt it was about time Alaska became part of the democratic process instead of being left out.

"It's up for grabs tonight," said Ed Oberts, Republican chairman for District 33. "It's an indication of how Alaska feels about this election."

 

Vivian Swanson casts her vote for Hillary Clinton in a "fan-out" election during the Democratic presidential caucus at Soldotna Sports Center on Tuesday night.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

Representatives from both political parties applauded the turnout their respective events garnered Tuesday. Voters at the Republican preferential polling session at Grace Brethren Church stood in a line that stretched out the door in order to cast their ballots. So many people showed up to the Democratic caucus that many were forced to stand along the perimeter of the room.

"I've never been to a caucus," said Jessica Arness, of Nikiski. "It's great to see the community get together like this."

Arness and Lester Nelson of Soldotna found themselves plastered against the wall of the conference room at the Soldotna Sports Center watching a hubbub of voting cards, microphones and Democratic campaigners. Although they were glad Alaska has a chance to choose a nominee, Nelson said he wished that the caucuses could happen simultaneously.

"Other states can see how others vote before they get to us," he said.

Beth Wright, of Soldotna, said this presidential race is different from any other, adding that it's hard to predict what the outcome would be. Wright stood in the foyer of Peninsula Grace Brethren's worship center with her husband, Kearlee. Although she wondered why the Republican preferential voting session was out of town rather than at the city hall, she praised its simplicity.

"We vote every time they have an election," she said. "There's a lot of publicity. We've been interested from the very beginning."

This is the first year Rich Rohr will cast his vote as an Alaskan. A transplant to Soldotna from Oregon, Rohr liked the preferential polling process, but said this particular race is going to be scary for him.

"In Oregon there was more on the ballot than just an individual," he said. "It's going to be a scary race for me because of who I like. The Democrats got a strong platform this time."

Mark Larson of Kenai said the heated race between Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama sparked his interest in the presidential race. Even though he follows politics and has always voted, Larson said he's never been politically active. Now, Larson said he wants to see the country move away from the Republican agenda and he thinks Barrack Obama is the man to do it.

"It's exciting," he said. "It takes a long time for the country to reach out and be multi-racial and step towards that goal. My next dream is maybe we could elect someone of Norwegian heritage."

 

The line wraps out the door at the Republican presidential caucus at Peninsula Grace Brethren Church on Tuesday night as voters cast their choice for their candidate.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

Michael Druce of Sterling likes the fact that there are still five viable candidates in the Democratic party and said now that Alaska is involved early in the election, he's beginning to feel like he's influencing the outcome. In general, Druce said the presidential race this year doesn't feel as acrimonious as previous years.

"People get tired of negative politics," he said. "It feels like your votes count because we're part of Super Tuesday. We have more influence than in the general election."

Jessica Cejnar can be reached at jessica.cejnar@peninsulaclarion.com.



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