Buoyed by a huge turnout, Bernie Sanders roared to a landslide win over Hillary Clinton in Washington’s Democratic Party caucuses Saturday.
The Vermont senator received roughly 70 percent of delegate votes cast in precinct caucuses as his supporters packed into schools, labor halls and community centers to choose him as the party’s presidential nominee over the former U.S. Secretary of State.
In Snohomish County, Sanders collected 76.1 percent to Clinton’s 23.8 percent.
Party officials estimated Saturday’s turnout could reach 250,000 which would match the total in 2008 when Clinton and then Illinois Sen. Barack Obama battled.
At Meadowdale High School in Edmonds, where 50 caucuses were held, roughly 3,200 people showed up. The line to get
in reached a half-mile long at
one point. It got so crowded inside, several caucuses moved outdoors to carry on their debates and votes.
“Thank goodness for the good weather,” joked Richard Wright, Snohomish County Democratic Party chairman.
Wright said he visited several sites Saturday and found the level of energy and the size of crowds reminiscent of 2008.
“It was another victory for small ‘d’ democracy,” he said.
In the 44th Legislative District, 3,158 people attended caucuses at three sites including 900 at Cavalero Middle School in Lake Stevens. Like everywhere else in the county, Sanders was the overwhelming choice.
“It was really very pleasant. Everybody was very upbeat,” said Mark Hintz, the caucus coordinator. “They were all looking for swag but I didn’t have any swag because this was neutral ground. We just tried to promote democracy and to get them involved.”
Liberal Democratic state Sen. Maralyn Chase, D-Shoreline, caucused for Sanders at Edmonds-Woodway High School in Edmonds. She said she was impressed by the energy of those pushing for his election.
“These were some serious folks. They have heard his message,” she said.
Washington has 118 delegates to the Democratic National Convention. Of those 101 will be awarded proportionally through the caucus process that began Saturday and culminates with the state party convention in June.
The other 17 delegates are handed out to statewide elected office-holders and party leaders. Though technically unpledged, Gov. Jay Inslee and the Democratic members of the state’s congressional delegation have said publicly they back Clinton.
Chase said some of them may want to rethink their position in light of Saturday’s lopsided outcome.
“Can they really and truly go against the wishes of constituents in the (congressional) district they represent?” she said.
Though Clinton fared worse Saturday than she did in Washington’s 2008 caucuses, she will continue to lead Sanders in their chase for delegates. She led 1,223 to 920 before Saturday’s Democratic caucuses in Washington, Alaska and Hawaii.
Washington also will conduct a statewide presidential primary May 24.
Those results will not alter Saturday’s outcome because the state Democratic Party relies solely on caucuses to allot its delegates.
In contrast, the primary is important for state Republicans because that party will allocate its 44 delegates based on the results.
Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623;