There was a rush on the democratic process at Discovery Elementary in Sammamish Saturday as residents came out in droves to help determine the Republican nominee for the 2012 presidential election.
To replay coverage from the caucuses around the Puget Sound area from this morning, and click "replay" to scroll through our updates and photos. Meanwhile, , so far reflecting what we saw at the 52-precinct caucus at Discovery this morning.
Though the caucus did not officially count straw poll votes at the event, instead forwarding the materials directly to GOP headquarters for counting, Caucus Chair David Irons said that if he had to guess about the straw poll results, "60 percent to 70 percent were for Romney."
Before the caucus began, Sammamish resident Christie McMahon Malchow told Patch that at the last caucus she attended, there were two people present in her precinct. Still, even though family circumstances left her without childcare, Malchow came out with her 22-month-old in tow to cast her vote for the Republican presidential nominee. After the caucus, she reported that her precinct alone had 18 representatives.
"I was pleasantly surprised at the big turnout," she said, adding that she was impressed with the organization of the caucus.
Malchow was certainly not alone, as the crowd to sign in stretched out to the road even minutes before the 10 a.m. start time.
"I've never seen this many people," said Dino Rossi, former Washington state Senator in the 5th District and current Washington co-chair for Mitt Romney's campaign. Rossi was on hand in his home district along with his 18-year-old son Jake, who was participating in his first caucus as a registered voter.
Organizers scrambled to find seats for everyone, but kept things running fairly smoothly. Even before the epic turnout became apparent, Irons talked about plans to move some groups to the school's gymnasium to accommodate all comers. Precincts with experienced precinct committee officers present were moved to the gym from the multipurpose room because they would have fewer process questions, after the group as a whole received instructions.
Local, national, and international media flocked to the caucus as well, anticipating an engaged electorate. Irons explained that the Sammamish caucuses garnered extra attention in part because of indicators such as high voluntarism of parents and a high concentration of business people, which point to large numbers and a lot of involved participants.
Sammamish Republicans see Romney as most electable
Malchow said that her precinct overwhelmingly went to Romney. She herself would prefer Santorum as a candidate, but planned to cast her vote for Romney.
"I like Santorum better, but I think Romney has a better chance against Obama," she said. She said she saw positives in Gringrich as well especially in debates, but ultimately felt that she'd like to pick a candidate she felt would have a strong showing. She said she was concerned that Santorum would be too conservative for a broad Republican base.
Malchow, along with other attendees, came to the caucus location with a pretty clear vision of who they planned to vote for, and a number of participants said there was not much discussion in their individual caucuses regarding who to nominate.
"I think people are sort of set in who they favor," said Sammamish resident Adam Bly, whose precinct "overwhelmingly" chose Romney. "I was the lone Ron Paul supporter," out of the seven precinct members present, he said.
Bly said that most people in his precinct, represented by seven attendees, seemed to be selecting the candidate they thought had the best chance of defeating President Obama, adding that he disagreed with that philosophy.
"I don't personally agree, I think Romney's very liberal, and I think Ron Paul would stand a good chance, too."
Scott Turtel, who came with his son Nate, said he prefers Newt Gingrich because he has a lot of leadership experience and is bright and thoughtful.
Nate, who at 14 couldn't vote but was interested in witnessing the process, said he would favor Santorum for his "strong moral character."
Rossi, who was attending a presidential election year caucus for the first time in years as a non-gubernatorial candidate, said he believed the apparently strong showing for Romney had a lot to do with having a strong network.
"Honestly, I think all the candidates are head and shoulders above what we have, but Romney has the network, and you can't beat something with nothing," Rossi said. He said that though he really likes Santorum, he believes that as a candidate he needs to spend a few more years building his network of support before he can seriously vie for the Oval Office.
For Rossi's son, also a Romney supporter, his first caucus experience was personally fruitful as well. He said he's excited that he was selected as an alternate delegate in his precinct.