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Island Democrats support Kerry

Island County Democratic Party officials were surprised when they showed up for the Feb. 7 caucus in Oak Harbor.

They found nearly 200 citizens at North Whidbey Middle School participating in a process to select a candidate they hope will beat George W. Bush in the November election.

“He’s not representing my concerns and those are health care and the economy of the middle and lower class,” said Oak Harbor resident Barbara Eaton, describing President Bush.

Being Democrats, those sentiments were echoed by others attending the Saturday morning caucus — many of whom were frustrated with the direction of the current administration.

“I don’t want another four years of Bush,” said Oak Harbor resident Peggy Koch. She was on hand to support John Kerry. She felt that he was more “presidential,” and assertive.

Oak Harbor resident Ruth Williams is frustrated with both the president’s domestic policy and how he’s handled the war in Iraq.

She called the deficit “unbelievable” considering that there was a tax surplus several years ago. She would also like to see the unemployment rate drop and health insurance reformed.

She too supported Kerry.

“He’s forceful enough to beat Bush,” Williams said.

The majority of Island County Democrats appear to support Kerry. At least that is what results from Saturday’s Island County caucuses seem to indicate.

The Massachusetts senator won 176 of the county’s 303 delegates. Howard Dean was second with 81 delegates and Dennis Kucinich was third with 40 delegates.

Statewide, Kerry won 48 percent of the vote to Dean’s 30 percent. Kerry also won the Maine and Michigan caucuses over the weekend.

Nearly 1,900 Island County residents participated in Saturday’s caucuses that took place at North Whidbey Middle School in Oak Harbor, Coupeville Elementary School, Greenbank Farm, South Whidbey High School and Camano Country Club.

Grethe Cammermeyer, chair of the Island County Democratic Party, said the number of people attending was double what she expected this year.

The high attendance should serve as an indicator of people’s concern and frustration over the direction of the country, Cammermeyer said.

She was particularly amazed at the size of the Oak Harbor caucus.

“Oak Harbor has a reputation of being a little bit to the right,” Cammermeyer said. “People are concerned about all sorts of things.”

She said that the numbers of Democrats at the Oak Harbor caucus means the party will be doing more outreach to northern Whidbey Island.

“The caucuses provided names of individuals who are excited about the coming year and want to get involved,” Cammermeyer said.

Kerry won 37 of the 58 delegates available in Oak Harbor.

Kerry wasn’t the only candidate Oak Harbor residents supported Saturday. Howard Dean received 16 delegates, Dennis Kucinich received 3 and John Edwards received 2.

Oak Harbor resident Don Jenkins supported Dean because of his track record as Vermont’s governor where he balanced the state’s budget.

Although Dean didn’t win a majority of delegates, Jenkins was satisfied with his day at the caucus.

“I’m not disappointed. (Kerry) is a good second choice,” Jenkins said.

For many attending the caucuses, it was an opportunity to see a grass-roots political process in action.

“Many people talked about how they enjoyed seeing democracy in action,” Cammermeyer said.

Now with the Feb. 7 caucus complete, the Island County Democrats are spending the next couple weeks preparing for the April 24 county convention. However, county Democrats don’t have a location yet, Cammermeyer said.

At the convention, the 303 delegates will be whittled down to 20. They will participate in the Second Congressional District Convention in Bellingham on May 29. Of those delegates, and ones from Whatcom, San Juan, Skagit and Snohomish counties, only six delegates and one alternate will be chosen to go to the national convention.

In addition to trimming the delegates, Cammermeyer is busy sifting through numerous resolutions that passed Saturday.

The resolutions touched upon topics as labor issues, civil rights and the environment, Cammermeyer said.

She said those resolutions will be used at the county convention to put together the Island County Democratic platform.

For more information go to www.islandcountydemocrats.com.

President Bush and his policies will find much more support when Island County Republicans hold their caucuses Tuesday, March 9 at 7:30 p.m. North Whidbey Republicans will meet at Oak Harbor High School, while South Whidbey Republicans meet at the Bayview Senior Center.

You can reach News-Times reporter Nathan Whalen at nwhalen@whidbeynewstimes.com.

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