Whether it was because it took place on a sunny, Sunday afternoon or because there was no contest this year for the party's presidential nominee, only about 70 people turned up for the 31st Legislative District precinct caucus today at Bonney Lake High School.
District Chair Ron Weigelt said the turnout represented about 8 percent of turnout from 2008 when then candidate Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were both running for the party ticket. Without that caliber of contest this year, Weigelt said he wasn't suprised by the low turnout.
Sheerie Slatton, from Enumclaw, recalls four years ago, the precinct caucus took place at Enumclaw High School and the facility was packed "wall to wall." And John S. Mayers, also of Enumclaw, who caucused in 2008 at the Neuwaukum Grange recalled there were more than 250 people and as an organizer, "it was all I could do to maintain order."
This year, Mayers, who said he participates in precinct caucuses and has done so since 1984, continues to attend even though he feels there are many flaws with the caucus system. "In this state, it's the only way to participate in the nomination process for president," he said.
While there is no challenge for Pres. Obama in the party this year, there is precedence for nominees challenging the incumbent, Mayer said, such as when Ted Kennedy took on incumbent Jimmy Carter in 1980 and Ronald Reagan took on Gerald Ford in 1976.
Of the attendance, Mayer said, "It's the worst I've seen yet." There is apathy among voters but Mayer also said he took issue with the scheduling of the precinct caucus this year -- a Sunday afternoon.
According to Mayer, in 2008, the 31st District submitted a resolution to the state Democratic Party to move caucus activity to Tuesday weekenights. Activity on both Saturday or Sunday disenfranchises those who observe religious rites during the weekend, he said. The state party turned it down.
Those Who Attended
With the presidential nominee being a foregone conclusion, attendees said they came for a variety of reasons, including meeting fellow local Democrats, learning about the other more high-profile races coming up including Sen. Maria Cantwell's re-election and Jay Inslee for governor and submitting their own resolutions for consideration at the county convention.
George McKay, of Auburn, said he submitted a number of resolutions to be forwarded for consideration at the appropriate county convention, including a reaction to the recent Citizens United ruling to reaffirm that corporations are not people and money is not free speech as well as environmental, social welfare and war-related declarations.
Cherie Murchie, of Enumclaw, said she has been a strong Democrat since childhood with a father who was active with labor unions. She came in part to give Pres. Obama a vote of confidence as well as to network, "to find out what needs to be done, who's doing it and what we can do to help."
Next to her, Slatton and here husband Gene came because "we're just old-shoe Democrats," Sheerie said. "It's our job to get out and participate."
Sue Smith, of Enumclaw, said she wanted to know more about both Cantwell and Inslee's campaigns but aside from some campaign literature being available for Inslee, neither candidates came up. According to the district party's website, it has endorsed Inslee for governor but Cantwell is not listed (see the website).
Just the Issues
Murchie said she's concerned for the country, for the economy and particularly for public schools. "Democrats have always been very supportive of strong, working families and strong schools," she said.
As a senior citizen, Murchie said it's also important for her that Medicare and Social Security are protected.
"In Enumclaw, there is a growing senior population and it's important that seniors have what they need," she said. Murchie is also a member of the newly formed task force looking into food and hunger issues on the Plateau. ().
Slatton said that in looking at government spending, she agrees there are places to cut but "social programs isn't one of them." Additionally, government has an important role in society. "I don't test the quality of my meat," she said. "I don't test my drinking water. I don't repair the potholes on the streets. But I will take care of my own property."
Murchie concurred. Citizens need good, strong police and fire departments. "Everyone benefits from that," she said.
Smith said she was appalled that the Catholic Church is involved in petitions to invalidate gay marriage. "To me, that's not separation of church and state."
Richard and Patricia Hughes say that the environment is important to them and they are worried about global warming.
Richard said the division in this country is growing and he's also concerned about the Republican party's attacks on women, laws against immigrants as well as proposals to cut social welfare programs.
Weigelt didn't discount any of these issues as those he's heard in his capacity as district chair. From his perspective, the district's members put jobs and the economy as top priorities. Members are unhappy with big banks, he said, and that's reflected in reaction to the recent Citizens United ruling that permits unlimited corporate and union spending in elections.
The environment, and the issue of fracking in particular, is also a top concern, Weigelt said. A process to optimize the extraction of natural gas and oil from underground, it brings up worries about environmental contamination and health effects so members are calling for restrictions or limits to the process being used.
The district nominating convention next takes place on April 28 at 10 a.m. in the Sumner Library. Go to www.wa-democrats.org for more information. To follow the latest developments from the 31st District Democratic Party, go to www.31stdistrictdemocrats.org.