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Update: Enumclaw Voters Pack Room for Republican Caucus Saturday

District officials put the initial headcount at 285 people who took part in this morning's Republican caucus for Enumclaw precincts at Auburn High School.

Editor's Note: We've added some more voter interviews from this morning at Auburn High School.

The Washington state Republican caucuses are now complete and . 

The turnout this morning of Enumclaw voters who took part in their precinct caucuses at Auburn High School was, as newly appointed District Committee Chairman Ron Lalime put it, "This is an overwhelming crowd and I don't know how to say how proud I am."

Committee Sargent at Arms Jerry Newcomer said, before the caucus began, that last year's caucus only drew about 20 or 30 people. He attributes the high participation rate to the presidential election this year as well as the fact that there's no primary election this year.

U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert stopped by to lend his support and enthusiasm to the voters. "There's an energy here that hasn't been seen before," he said of caucus participation."

His grandson took part in his first caucus at Kentland High School, Reichert said, and "the young people are fired up."

Five young people, in fact, who were not yet able to vote, waited in the observation area while their parents participated.

Siblings Gabriella and Chris Sechrist said they wanted to see how the process worked and get familiar with it for when they can vote. Chris, 17, will turn 18 unfortunately after the election this November. If they could vote, they'd probably support Rick Santorum, said Gabriella.

Siblings Sean and Luke Gibson also accompanied their mom and though they were less decided on who they would support, they wanted to learn about the process as well.

Matthew Hazard, a White River High School and Running Start student, said he'd support Mitt Romney if he could vote and could be interested in a career in politics and public policy.

A number of Enumclaw leaders were present as well, including City Councilmen Kevin Mahelona and Darrel Dickson.

Dickson, selected as a delegate in his precinct, said he personally was supporting Romney. "He stands for smaller government, less debt, more jobs. He's got a proven track record running a successful business and we need that."

Layne and Denise Virgin concurred. "It's about the economy," Layne said while waiting to check in to the caucus. "He [Romney] is by far the most qualified to deal with the economy. I like that he's not a Washington insider and I think he's most qualified to beat Obama."

While other candidates had strengths, "you pick the one who stands the greatest chance" to win the election, said Denise.

And state Sen. Pam Roach, who rose early after a late night in Olympia, agreed. "All the candidates have great assets, but we need to put someone against Obama" who has Romney's business and organizational experience. "We need someone who can actually win. Winning should be our focus."

That appeared to be the opinion of several voters heading into the caucus, including Linda and Dale Gann, who were supporting Romney. "I like Ron Paul," said Dale, "but he's not going to make it."

Not so, said Joel Hallet. "He's [Paul] the only candidate whose had a consistent record. He supports returning government to a state it was designed to be in."

And he's able to pull the undecided and independent votes, Hallet said. Romney represents the 'old guard' for the GOP and Paul probably upsets that, he said. 

That's the perspective of a trio of young people working the Ron Paul campaign who hung out in the observation area as well. The three, who couldn't provide names as they'd signed waivers with the campaign about speaking officially to the press, said the campaign's focus now was to educate voters about the delegate role rather than simply advocating for their candidate.

According to the Ron Paul campaign, in one precinct in Larimer County, Colorado, the straw poll vote was 23 for Santorum, 13 for Paul, 5 for Romney, 2 for Newt Gingrich. There were 13 delegate slots, and Paul got all 13 (read the statement).

Roger Hancock, however, aligns himself with Newt Gingrich. "His values are closer to my values," Hancock said. A poet who runs the site www.poetpatriot.com, Hancock shared a handout of selected poetry with fellow voters and shared a copy with Patch. (See below for a selection from Hancock's collection)

As of Saturday night, Romney declared victory with Santorum and Paul close behind. ()

Earlier in the day when the caucus was over but the straw polls hadn't yet been tallied, Chairman Lalime reflected on the voter participation this year and said it was the greatest turnout for caucusing he's seen since 1988 when he lived in Des Moines and in the 33rd District. At that caucus, "There were more people there than I knew what to do with."

Sen. Roach, who was still speaking to voters after her precinct's deliberation concluded, added that that was the year that Pat Robertson took the state and the caucus system was replaced by a primary election.

According to a presidential primary background paper written by Secretary of State Sam Reed, political polls indicated that despite his caucus victory, "Robertson would not have been the choice of Republican voters in the state, most of whom would have selected a more moderate candidate."

A citizen-sponsored Initiative to the Legislature came next, and it had more than 200,000 signatures to support a presidential primary. The Legislature in 1989 adopted the citizen initative.

This year, however, according to an , budgetary concerns led the Secretary of State and Legislature to cancel the primary.

State Rep. Cathy Dahlquist, representing District 31, told the voters before proceedings began Saturday morning about why she voted to do away with the primary and that it does save taxpayers $10 million while drawing voters to caucus.

In the past, both a primary and a caucus have been used to allocate delegates to the national convention.

But with a caucus, "you can fill a room," Roach said.

All 14 Washington state Patch sites live blogged from our caucuses and you can .

Liberty Be (By Roger W. Hancock)

As a rose its beauty adorns,
has its pricks, has it's thorns.
Life in Liberty, the freedom we see,
has its trials, be forewarned.

Through the air the bell rings free,
cover the bell and the ding sounds dim.
Regulation restricts sovereign unity,
as freedom strains from lawyers' whim.

Beauty abounds in the garden of flowers,
the gardener toils,for blooms all to view.
Liberty for some is oppression for others,
rights for all means, not all rights for you.

The Nation's bell once rang free,
the crack down side proclaims the cost.
Life in liberty, is not… freedom be,
rights came,by devoted lives lost.

One single bloom awaits more flowers,
to many, too close chokes the debut.
One lone liberty may stifle another;
balance of rights is responsibility to you.

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