GOP voters go to next round

OLYMPIA — Republicans aren’t done yet in helping choose their party’s presidential nominee, the state’s top election official said Tuesday.

Next week’s presidential primary, for which voting is under way, will actually commit 19 delegates to the candidates, said Secretary of State Sam Reed.

“This is really an opportunity to have an impact,” said Reed, who is a Republican.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., swept Tuesday’s primaries in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee finishing second in each. Still, Huckabee is not conceding until one of them gains enough delegates to secure the nomination.

“Everybody is going to be looking at what happens here and in Wisconsin next Tuesday,” Reed said.

Huckabee has received a mound of media attention this week because of the furor generated regarding the results of last Saturday’s caucuses.

His campaign advisers publicly questioned the veracity of the results and blasted state party chairman Luke Esser for declaring a victor before all the votes had been counted. The campaign’s legal team remained in Washington state Tuesday.

McCain held a slim lead Saturday night when Esser declared him the winner. With 96 percent of precincts counted Monday night, McCain still led.

Results of unfinished caucus voting released Monday by the state Republican Party show the 39 counties nearly evenly split among McCain, 12; Huckabee, 12; and Paul, 10, with one county not reporting.

McCain was pulling the most delegates in the state’s two largest counties, King and Pierce. He also is leading in Island and Skagit counties.

Huckabee is ahead in Snohomish and 11 other counties, including Whatcom and Thurston.

Paul was scoring the most delegates in Spokane, Clark and eight other counties

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won in four counties even though he suspended his campaign two days before the caucuses.

With the spotlight on the caucuses and the aftermath, some voters may have thought they were done with the presidential nominating process but they’re not, Reed said.

Other voters are calling in to the Snohomish County Republican Party offices wondering if they can legally vote in the primary if they took part in the caucuses.

They can, said chairwoman Geri Modrell.

Reed is predicting as many as half the state’s registered voters, up to 1.5 million people, will cast ballots in the primary.

It is unclear if any Republican candidates will visit Washington to woo voters. As of yesterday, neither McCain, Huckabee nor Ron Paul had announced plans to come to the this state.

McCain said in his visit to Seattle last week that he hoped to make a return trip.

“I am working diligently on trying to convince him to come back,” said Chris Fidler, spokesman for McCain’s campaign in Washington.

Huckabee is in Wisconsin today and Thursday, according to events listed on his campaign Web site. Paul had no events listed in either state on his campaign Web page.

Reed said it will be interesting to see where candidates pick up votes in the primary versus where they won support of delegates in the caucuses.

Those who vote for a Democratic candidate should know the party is not allocating any delegates to Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., or Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., based on the results of the primary.

Democrats dole out 78 delegates through caucuses. Obama won by a 2-to-1 margin and will get 52 delegates with Clinton receiving 26, the party announced Tuesday.

The Republican Party is doling out 18 delegates through the caucus process that will conclude in May.

Another 19 delegates will be awarded from the results of the primary.

According to the state party, 10 of these delegates will be allocated based on the statewide vote totals for each candidate. The remaining will be doled out one per congressional district to the candidate with the most votes in that particular district.

Reporter Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623 or jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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