Caucus sets delegates in motion in Port Arthur

Published 8:38 am Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Margaret Borel said she’s usually very decisive, but remained undecided even as she sat in the caucus room Tuesday at Stilwell Technical Center. She said she liked something about Obama, Clinton and John McCain.

“I really want a woman, but I really like Obama,” she said, but “memories of Bill” represented something she didn’t like.

She said she wished the country could have a three-way presidency with one handling health care, another “NAFTA stuff” and another the military.

Ironically, she didn’t catch Obama or Clinton on recent Southest Texas visits because she didn’t want to get in the crowds. Borel was smack in the middle of an overflowing crowd of those hoping to become delegates to the Democratic party.

Commitment, patience, passion, and even confusion were on the ballot for caucus attendees at Stilwell, and their situation seemed to play out in similar scenes across Jefferson County on election night.

At Stilwell, hundreds of residents representing Precincts 45, 70, 95 and 109 filled the rooms and spilled out into hallways after the primary polls closed waiting for their chance to caucus for their favorite Democratic presidential candidate. Attendees waited for about an hour and 10 minutes to begin dividing into precinct groups, because Robert A. Lee, Precinct 45 election judge, wasn’t allowed to begin the caucus until after everyone in line to vote at 7 p.m. had finished voting.

Those inside seemed willing to spend their evening in a “hurry-up-and-wait” mode in order to support their candidate. They waited patiently as they chatted, worked puzzles or even caught a quick nap. Many said they’d never been moved to attend a caucus before and didn’t know what to expect.

Lee patiently explained throughout the evening that that each precinct would elect a chairperson and a recording secretary. Then attendees would select delegates and alternates based on a formula of how many voted in each precinct in the most recent presidential election.

Lee became Precinct 45 chairperson. This section was allowed 14 delegates and 14 alternates. Of attendees in his precinct, 44 declared support for Barak Obama for president and 39 declared support for Hillary Clinton. Voters chose their representatives and Lee said he hoped they would all show up for a county meeting Saturday, March 29, at Austin Middle School in Beaumont. At that meeting, Lee said the same formula, based on previous election counts, would be applied to the voting “strength,” to see how many votes would go toward Obama or Clinton. The same process was repeated for the other precincts.

Delegates will go to the state Democratic convention in Austin and the national convention, set for Aug. 25-28 in Denver,” he said.

Lee said the Democratic party expected the high number of voters in Port Arthur this year. He said he’d attended caucuses before with just a handful of people, but this time more people attended because they are “fed up to the gills,” he said.

“The people have decided they’re going to have a say this year,” Lee said.

While some caucus attendees grumbled about the slow process or said they believed the night’s actions wouldn’t accomplish anything, most remained patient and were willing to share why they supported a candidate.

Oney Fitzpatrick was drawn to his first caucus.

“We are at a time in our history with an opportunity to change,” the Obama supporter said.

“I like his philosophy of trying to establish the United States’ status in the world,” Fitzpatrick said. “I think he’s a lot more sensitive to the common man.”

Cesar Munoz gave his vote for Clinton.

“I support Miss Hillary all the way. I’m hoping and praying she gets it. I think she and Bill can run this country, turn it around and get it going back in the right direction … balance the budget … reduce the national debt … and end this war,” Munoz said.

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