County caucus fever: Democrats soar, Republicans roar

WASHINGTON COUNTY – Utah caucuses have launched with the Democrats holding theirs last night and the Republicans holding theirs tomorrow night. Both parties espouse growth in Washington County, assuring a stimulating election season.

Washington County Democratic Party

In 2010, the Washington County Democratic Party had 103 persons attend the first caucus in that election season. Two years later, the party had 320 total participants in last night’s caucus.

Dorothy Engelman, chair of the local party, is pleased with the turnout.

“We still don’t have really big numbers, but you can’t argue with a 300 percent increase,” she said.

Engelman said that District 74, which met at the Tonaquint Intermediate School, had the greatest turnout.

“All of the caucuses had excellent discussions,” Engelman said. “Of the folks I’ve talked to, that was the highlight, to hear what their neighbors had to say, everything was amicable, and many people were former Republicans who felt that Republicans have left them by the wayside.”

Several of the delegates chosen at the Democratic caucuses for the county convention are former Republicans, Engelman said. “Those said they feel the Republican Party no longer represents them and they want to be involved in the democratic process.” She said that being a delegate for the Democratic Party is a way for those to have their voices heard.

“We’re outnumbered 7 to 1 as far as registered Republicans and Democrats” in the county, Engelman said. But she is not discouraged, of the 300 percent increase in attendance she said, “I think there’s a statement there.”

Washington County Republican Party

The Republicans have their caucuses tomorrow night, Mar. 15.

Willie Billings, Chairman of the Washington County Republican Party, looks forward to them and said the goal of the party is to see a minimum of 100 participants per caucus meeting, with just shy of 100 meetings throughout the county.

Like their Democrat counterparts, anyone is welcome to attend the Republican caucuses. Unlike their opponents, only registered Republicans, residing in the precinct boundary, and aged 18 by the time of the election, can speak, vote, nominate or be nominated at the caucus meetings.

“I had a big conference call last night with precinct leadership in preparation for the caucuses,” said Billings. “We should have record caucus attendance, the excitement and enthusiasm is at an all-time high, we have more Republican participation than we have ever seen.”

Billings said he doesn’t know how being a delegate for the Democratic party would give any more of a voice to someone than being a delegate for the Republican party, as Engelman had related. “It doesn’t make sense,” he said.

“I’ve had a few, not very many but I’ve had a few, say they’re upset with the Republican party,” Billings said, “and I ask them, ‘now are you upset with the party or with leaders that aren’t adhering to the Republican platform?’ Every time they say: ‘That’s it, there are some Republicans on the federal platform that aren’t standing for it.’

“But every time they read the platform of the party, they say, ‘oh yeah that’s me, that’s what I believe.’”

Those Republican dissidents see Republican legislators that aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do on the federal level, and Billings emphasized that the dissatisfaction is only with a few on the federal level.

In all the Republican Party races, Billings said the candidates are “your average hard working citizen who is deciding to get involved to help make a difference as opposed to your career politicians.”

To encourage the Republican participation in this election season, Billings implemented a county-wide vote-by-mail campaign, among other things, and organized what he characterized as a “hot hot organized staff … with quality people that care, are very well organized … (and) have done an exceptional job.”

He said his “sweet wife, Nanette,” with whom he celebrates 25 years of marriage today, volunteered to run the “vote by mail” campaign and has worked at least five days a week, nine hours a day for three solid weeks.

“I have had paid staff and volunteers covering every neighborhood, giving people the opportunity to register to vote by mail and we’ve delivered caucus door hangers reminding everybody when their caucus meetings are; we’ve got 1,200 signs that we’ve posted in every neighborhood across the county and we’ve been on several radio shows last week and this week.”

Thursday, Billings will be the guest of Bryan and Kate on the Perspectives Morning Show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. Listeners may also listen live online.

The Republicans will choose over 200 state delegates and over 450 county delegates tomorrow night.

Caucus meeting locations are listed at the Washington County Republican Party website. Note that there have been some location changes since Mar. 9 and it is advisable to check the site given for last minute location changes.

Utah Absentee Ballot Application – available to any qualified voter regardless of party affiliation.

 

email: jkuzmanic@stgnews.com

twitter: @JoyceKuzmanic

Copyright 2012 St. George News.

 

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