Bernie Sanders Trounces Hillary Clinton In Washington Caucuses | KUOW News and Information

Bernie Sanders Trounces Hillary Clinton In Washington Caucuses

Mar 26, 2016

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders defeated Hillary Clinton by a wide margin Saturday in Washington state's Democratic caucuses, according to party results.

With all precincts reporting, Sanders had about 73 percent of the vote.

He won handily in every county. The closest Clinton came was in tiny Garfield County -- the state's least populous -- where she still lost by 20 points. (See county by county details at the state Democrats' website.)

Democrats turned out in force, with many precincts seeing large crowds. 

On a sunny day in the Seattle area, some precincts moved their caucusing to parking lots and lawns to accommodate the crowds.

Jaime Bliss was one of the first-time caucus-goers streaming into Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School to support Sanders. Bliss, 38, works as a community mental health counselor. She says her college loans have been a big struggle to pay off, so Sanders’ push for free tuition resonates.  

“Our country is supposed to have all these opportunities, and look how debilitating it is for a young person to go to college and try to afford that,” she said. “I’m one of the products of that.”

About 60 people from Bliss’ precinct gathered around a table in the school gym. Initially Sanders had twice as many supporters as Clinton, but four people were undecided.  

Clinton supporter Nancy Elder tried to win people over.  

“She can actually get things done by compromise. Bernie’s pretty contentious,” Elder said. “When you look at their voting records in Congress, they’re about 98 percent of the time the same. But who’s been more effective? Who heard of Bernie before last year?”

Jaime Bliss makes the case for Bernie Sanders during the Democratic caucus at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School on Saturday.
Credit KUOW photo/Amy Radil


Then Bliss spoke, saying she appreciates Sanders’ relentlessness in pushing beyond just incremental change.

“He will say, ‘yes, we will make this change, but it’s still not good enough,’” she said. “And that’s why I want to vote for him.”

On the second tally, the “undecided” went for Sanders. One of those was Jake Fawcett. Fawcett, 41, says that back in the 1990s, he supported candidates like Ralph Nader and refused to vote for Bill Clinton. But this year Fawcett says he’ll be open-minded.

“The general election is not the place to have your most pure ideology reflected,” he said. “That’s where you’re gonna try to choose the best strategic choice in that moment. So, yeah, definitely I’ll be voting for Hillary if she’s the nominee and hopefully getting out the vote in my neighborhood, too.”

One precinct takes the caucus outside of Adams Elementary School in Ballard for some elbow room and sunshine on Saturday, March 26.
Credit KUOW photo/Derek Wang

A strong showing in Washington was a key part of Sanders’ strategy to move forward.

Clinton is leading in the national delegate count. Sanders has done well in caucus states, but the former U.S. secretary of state has dominated in states that use primaries to apportion delegates.

There were 101 national delegates at stake in the Washington state caucuses. On Saturday, Democrats were picking about 27,000 delegates to move on to the next level in the state caucus system.

Party officials in Washington have said that the split between Sanders and Clinton at this first level should be proportional to the number of national delegates that the candidates eventually get.

Democratic officials said at least 230,000 people participated Saturday.  In the 2008 caucuses, the party drew about 250,000.

Democrats also were holding caucuses in Alaska and Hawaii on Saturday. Sanders won by an even wider margin in Alaska.

At a rally Saturday evening in Madison, Wisconsin, Sanders claimed victory in Alaska and noted his wide margin in Washington.

“We are making significant inroads in Secretary Clinton's lead,” Sanders said. "We have a path toward victory."

KUOW's Derek Wang and John O'Brien contributed to this report.

Correction, 8:50 a.m., 3/29/2016: Garfield County was incorrectly identified in an earlier version of this story.