Eight years later, Carbon County still Clinton country

Though Senator Bernie Sanders wins Wyoming, Carbon County supported Clinton


Max Miller

Voters listen as Carbon County Democratic Chair Linda Fleming explains the caucus process. Sixty-seven voters came to Rawlins to make their voices heard, though an additional 59 people cast absentee ballots in the county.

Across Wyoming on Saturday, Democratic Caucus-goers chose Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by 11 percentage points, 55.7 percent to 44.3 percent. Because of the state's delegate allocation rules, however, the presidential candidates will end up splitting Wyoming's 14 pledged delegates evenly, seven and seven, according to the Associated Press (AP). The state's also has four super delegates, who are free to vote for whomever they choose. They have all thrown their support to Clinton, meaning she will take 11 of the state's 18 total delegates. Per Democratic Party rules, a presidential candidate needs to win 2,383 delegates to capture the party's nomination for the presidency.

Here in Carbon County, 67 dedicated Democrats made the trip to Rawlins Saturday morning where the party held its caucus at the Carbon County Higher Education Center. An additional 59 voters made their voices heard through "surrogate affidavit forms" - a kind of absentee ballot for the caucuses. In total, 126 registered Democrats participated in the timely caucus process - a decrease from 2008, the last competitive Democratic Caucus in the state.

CNN reported that in 2008, 217 Democrats caucused in Carbon County. Clinton edged out the 2008 contest in Carbon County, 114 to 103, though she lost the state as a whole to Barack Obama.

This year, all the voters gathered in a single room at 11 a.m. Saturday, where Carbon County Democratic Party Chair Linda Fleming explained the caucus rules and format.

Next came speeches. Two supporters of each candidate were allotted three minutes a piece to try and convince their friends and neighbors to support their preferred candidate.

The two speakers for Clinton stressed the former Secretary of State's lengthy resumé and track record of competence. Barbara Parsons, of Rawlins, said Clinton is "by far the most qualified candidate I have seen in my 77 years." The second Clinton supporter to speak added "if anyone has been vetted, she has," and noted Clinton's extensive foreign policy credentials.

Saratoga resident Carl Beach was the first to speak on behalf of Senator Sanders. Though Beach was careful to express his respect for former Secretary Clinton, Beach said that international travel has opened his eyes to what people want. "What I've seen around the world is that voters are demanding something different from their politicians," Beach said, listing honesty, integrity and transparency as crucial qualities.

Sanders supporter Sebrina Giesler was more aggressive during her allotted three minutes. Giesler linked Clinton to Wyoming Governor Matt Mead's policies, as well as the Trans Pacific Partnership free trade deal. Giesler said "Bernie has picked up the torch dropped by Hillary for a single-payer healthcare system."

Following the speeches, voters went to two separate rooms depending on candidate preference. A third space was reserved for undecided voters to make up their minds in. Eventually, 41 of the voters present supported Bernie Sanders, while 26 caucused for Hillary Clinton. Clinton captured 49 of the 59 surrogate affidavit ballots however, raising her total to 75 in the county to Sanders' total of 51.

In Wyoming, 280 county-level delegates vote to select the 14 delegates who will attend the Democratic National Convention. Across the state, Sanders won 156 of those county-level delegates, whereas Clinton won 124. In Carbon County, the Clinton camp got to select four county delegates to go to the state convention, while Sanders supporters got to send three for a county-wide total of seven.

Many caucus-goers elected to leave after presidential preference voting ended around 1 p.m. Those that stayed discussed the Democratic Party of Wyoming's official platform and reviewed election goals for Carbon County. The winner of a 50-50 fund-raising raffle for the state party was also announced at the very end of the scheduled activities, adding enticement to stick around after presidential voting ended.

Linda Fleming said she was somewhat surprised by the results of the voting. Fleming had thought that Sanders would win Carbon County, because more of his supporters were present at the caucus. Fleming also noted that "our neighboring states all had a greater percentage for Sanders," referring to the Vermont Senator's victories in contests held in Idaho, Utah, Colorado and Nebraska.

Though Sanders has won eight of the last nine primaries and caucuses, he lags 250 pledged delegates behind Clinton according to the AP. Super delegates are allowed to change their minds until the Democratic National Convention in July, but currently Sanders also faces a big deficit in support from them. By the AP's count, Sanders has the support of 31 super delegates, whereas 469 have declared for Clinton.

The Republican Party (G.O.P.) held its presidential Caucus in Wyoming March 12. In that contest, AP reported that Texas Senator Ted Cruz steamrolled his opponents, winning 66.3 percent of the vote and nine of the state's 12 delegates. Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who has since dropped out, took second place with 19.5 percent of the vote and one delegate. Donald Trump took third with 7.2 percent of the vote and one delegate, while one delegate for the Wyoming G.O.P. remains uncommitted.

Max Miller

Democratic Caucus-goers supporting Bernie Sanders vote to decide who will represent the Vermont Senator at the state convention in Cheyenne this May.


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