Local Democratic caucuses draw 400

All will head to the county convention later this month

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian assistant metro editor

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Caucus Voices

The Columbian asked some in attendance at one Democratic precinct caucus to name the key issues the party should focus on. Here’s what they had to say:

Ed Barnes: Take the U.S. House of Representatives back, build the Columbia River Crossing and make sure Republican Rob McKenna does not win the gubernatorial election.

George Davidson: “The economy is a problem. If we spend so much money, we need to raise taxes.”

Daniel DeGrandpre: Taxes, the economy and raising awareness about the dangers of pollution and climate change. “Half the population now thinks it’s all phony,” he said of climate change.

Dr. Zora DeGrandpre: “Women’s health. Health care for all.”

Kay Ellison: Improving the economy, and “for my son to have a job.”

Mike Kasner: Education and employment.

Michele McDermid: Reform the tax code to make it fair and create stricter rules to prevent businesses from polluting the environment. She also said that “corporations having personhood (for campaign funding) is completely ridiculous.”

Christine Munson: The economy, and to make sure President Barack Obama is re-elected.

John van der Burgh: “Defeat the Republicans. Don’t let their policies take hold. There’s no such thing as trickle-down economics.”

Steven Van Vranken: “Beat the Tea Party. They scare me. I don’t like their religious agenda.”

Clark County Democrats attending Sunday’s precinct caucuses said creating jobs, protecting the environment and ensuring victory this election season are among their top goals.

The caucuses took place at 10 locations around the county and allowed Democrats to discuss party issues, as well as send resolutions and elect delegates to the party’s county convention later this month. In all, about 400 people participated in the caucuses, and Democrats were able to elect all of them to the county convention, caucus organizer Mike Heywood said.

“We were pleased with this kind of turnout in a year when we don’t have any kind of presidential contest,” Heywood said. By comparison, the Republican precinct caucuses on March 3 drew an estimated 4,500 people, who debated which Republican presidential candidate should win the GOP nomination.

The Democratic caucuses at the Clark County Public Service Center kicked off with short speeches by prominent Democrats and a video message from U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell and Washington gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee.

Democratic leaders reminded the crowd of about 60 people gathered at the public services building that the precinct caucuses are the first step

in the grass-roots effort to keep Democrats in office at local, state and national levels. Democratic National Committee member Ed Cote told the crowd that the party needs all the help it can get to keep President Obama in office.

“This is not going to be a cake walk,” Cote said. “This is going to be a very close election.”

Congressional candidate Jon T. Haugen made a stop at the public services building. He is running against U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, but he has yet to receive an endorsement from the Clark County Democrats. The week for candidates to file for office is mid-May.

Haugen criticized President Barack Obama’s opponent, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, saying that Romney’s policies would thwart job creation. He also said Herrera Beutler has wealthy campaign donors, so Democrats will have to mobilize all the more to defeat her.

“We’re going to have to out-organize them,” Haugen said, calling Herrera Beutler a “butler for the rich.”

Former state Senate candidate Ty Stober took a moment to speak about Referendum 74, which would allow the public to vote to approve or reject recently passed legislation allowing same-sex couples to marry.

Stober was in the running to replace outgoing state Sen. Craig Pridemore, D-Vancouver, but he dropped out of the race to focus on the fight to allow same-sex marriage in Washington state.

Several caucus attendees said on Sunday that the event was significantly lower-key than the precinct caucuses in 2008, when many Washingtonians were grappling with their decision between Obama and current U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“I would have liked to see more young people,” teacher and caucus participant Christina Munson said. “The (2008) one was amazing. It was a very passionate debate.”

One of the youngest caucus participants on Sunday was Curtis McDermid, 17, of Vancouver, who described the event as “pretty fun,” adding that he could see himself getting involved in future political events. He was able to participate in the caucuses because he will be of voting age by the time general elections take place in November.

“It’s a lot less formal than I thought it would be,” McDermid said about his first precinct caucus.

Clark County Democrats also sent about two dozen resolutions regarding party issues to the county Democrats’ resolutions committee. The resolutions, which touched on topics such as supporting the Columbia River Crossing bridge to fighting the U.S. Supreme Court decision that allows corporations to make unlimited campaign contributions, will be discussed at the party’s county convention and then sent to the Democrats’ state convention.

The Clark County Democrats’ county convention begins at 9 a.m. April 28 at Hudson’s Bay High School. Doors open at 7:30 a.m.

There, delegates will be selected to go either to the 3rd Congressional District convention or the state convention. In all, 121 delegates and nine alternates from Washington state’s Democratic caucus system will head to the national convention.

Stevie Mathieu: 360-735-4523 or stevie.mathieu@columbian.com or www.facebook.com/reportermathieu or www.twitter.com/col_politics