The Associated Press called the Washington Democratic caucus for Sen. Bernie Sanders, with just over 30 percent of precincts reporting.
News reports and social media from across Washington state report high turnout in the Democratic caucus Saturday, driven in part by young people and new caucus-goers who turned out to cast ballots for Sanders.
Steve Margraph was among the crowd waiting in line at Cascade Middle School, the caucus location for 13 precincts in Vancouver. He was participating for the first time and brought his 6-year-old son.
“I’m very skeptical in general about politics and politicians,” Margraph said. “It seems like Bernie actually serves the interests of the average citizen.”
Early results showed a commanding lead for Sanders.
Washington, with 101 delegates awarded proportionally, is an important win for Sanders, who has done well in caucus states like Washington with a high percentage of white voters. Sanders traveled to Washington to campaign this week, as did former President Bill Clinton on behalf of his wife, Hillary.
More than 500 people packed into the gym at Cascade Middle School on Saturday to cast their ballots.
“This is a great and phenomenal turnout,” Tanisha Harris, the area coordinator for the Democrats told the crowd. “In 2008, the record for caucus-goers in the state was 250,000. It’s a possibility we’ll break that record again.”
Across town at the Vancouver School of Arts and Academics, the crowd was too large to fit inside the school and spilled out into the sunny courtyard.
“We had hundreds of extra people, and we had to move a bunch outside. Fortunately it’s a nice spring day,” said State Rep. Sharon Wylie.
Wylie, in a pink suit with a Hillary button pinned to the lapel, said she supports Clinton for her consistent work on women’s health, sexual violence prevention and access to health care. But Wiley said she welcomed the overwhelming support for Bernie in the crowd outside the school.
“I’m really happy to see people come alive,” she said. “It means people care and I don’t think they’re going to stop caring.”
Jenna Kay, an energy efficiency data analyst, and her husband Thomas Curtis, an engineer, also decided to participate in the caucus for the first time — each for a different candidate.
“I think we’re more divided on who we think is more likely to win against the Republican nominee,” said Kay, who is supporting Sanders. “I feel like his policies are more liberal, and I think he will have more momentum, being further to the left.”
Curtis said he favored Clinton for her foreign policy experience and proven record getting legislation passed in Congress.
“I think that there is a large youth movement for Bernie,” he said. “But I think that if you are on the fence, Hillary is a candidate who would have more appeal.”
On social media, caucus-goers tweeted photos of packed school gymnasiums and auditoriums across Washington.