LONG BEACH - More than 170 loyal Democrats crammed into the meeting room at the Super 8 Motel Saturday for the presidential caucus, a far cry from four years ago only three people attended the event.
Pacific County Democratic Party Chairman Bud Cuffell had to move two precincts to other locations because the crowd was way over the capacity of the room.
Like the smoke-filled rooms of the past, without the smoke, the noisy residents of Long Beach Peninsula precincts argued for their choices of candidates and elected delegates and alternates to the county convention April 24 in South Bend. Legislative district caucuses will be May 1.
Pacific County Clerk and Ilwaco resident Virginia Leach looked up from trying to keep track of votes for each candidate, saying "This is extremely difficult. We've never had people at a caucus before." Members of Ilwaco rural Precincts 1 and 2 had quite a time agreeing, with about 20 folks adjourning to the motel's lobby to try to convince undecided voters to commit to a candidate. At 11:15 a.m., they were still debating. The prevailing philosophy of the morning seemed to be "ABB," Anybody But Bush.
Sandy Jacoby, Democratic state commiteewoman, said the caucus was "An unbelievable outpouring."
By the end of the morning, Bev Olson, Pacific County precinct caucus chairwoman, said 317 people from the county's 37 precincts had attended caucuses.
Candidate John Kerry led the pack with 70 votes. Howard Dean received 23 votes, Dennis Kucinich 6 and John Edwards and Wesley Clark three. Six voters were undeclared.
Olson apologized to anyone who came to the caucus and left because they may have felt there wasn't enough room.
"I feel really bad," she said. "We worked so hard to get people to come. Pacific County Democrats apologize for that but we were surprised by the numbers that came."
In Naselle, 14 people attended the caucus with four votes for Kerry and one for Dean.