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Republican caucus a learning experience for many attending
ARLINGTON Dozens of Republicans gathered at Haller Middle School Feb. 9 to participate in the Republican caucus, which was a new experience for many of them. Those interviewed appreciated the opportunity, even if they didnt agree, or couldnt make up their minds, on other issues.
Today, Im for Huckabee, said Jim Dallman, sitting at the table for Arlington precincts 10 and 11 alongside Mary Alamillo. Tomorrow, who knows?
Dallman had previously favored Fred Thompson, while Alamillo supports John McCain, making him the first Republican candidate she would ever vote for.
I couldnt vote for Clinton, and Obama needs more seasoning, Alamillo said. McCain knows the Congressional process, so hes got the toolkit to get things done. Hes emotional about causes, which I prefer to someone whos a milquetoast.
Dallman likewise considers Mike Huckabee to be someone whose moral convictions mirror his own. Both Dallman and Alamillo attended the Feb. 9 caucus, the first for both of them, to learn more about the candidates and the process.
Alamillo is concerned with greenhouse gases, the economy, education and health care, while Dallman sees abortion and illegal immigration as top priorities.
Im pro-life, Dallman said. I also think we need to close the border.
Securing the border is also important to fellow first-time caucus-goer Bill Gillam, of the Trangen precinct. Gillam plans to vote for McCain, in spite of the criticism McCain has received for his stance on illegal immigration.
Hes got the best chance of getting elected, Gillam said.
Gillam likewise feels strongly about maintaining national defense and lowering taxes, but he expressed the most enthusiasm about the caucus itself.
Its a great process, Gillam said. I was expecting a more active discussion, but I was encouraged by the level of participation I saw today.
I thought there would be more banter, said Jennifer Nandor, whose husband Chris helped organize the Feb. 9 caucus. It was very peaceful.
Nandor remains undecided, since her first choice was Thompson and her second was Romney, and she does not care for Huckabee.
Romney was able to work within a very Democratic state to get things done, which says a lot, said Nandor, a former resident of Massachusetts. Programs like Social Security need to be fine-tuned so theyre not bleeding money. My basic issue is that I want to be left alone, to raise my family the way I want. I home-school my children, I dont believe in abortion and I should be able to spend my money as I see fit, without government taking it away and deciding for me.
Lana Vander Stoep, of the Stillaguamish precinct, was one of the relatively few attendees of the Feb. 9 caucus with experience in previous caucuses, and her impressions of it were equally positive.
Its much easier now than it used to be, Vander Stoep said. Before, it was a bit hardball, but this was more open and flexible.
Vander Stoep is leaning toward Mitt Romney, not because his conservatism matches her own, but also because she, like Nandor, once lived in Massachusetts.
Their educational system was horrendous when I lived there, but he got it up to number two in the nation, Vander Stoep said. I dont think government should be involved in peoples private lives, and if youre not a citizen, you shouldnt be collecting benefits from the government.
Frequent caucus-goer Larry Stickney, of the Arlington Heights precinct, likewise considers Romney and Huckabees pro-life, pro-family message of limited federal government to be in line with his own beliefs.
Im fearful of government growth, Stickney said. Its terrific to see the community come together like this. You hear a lot from liberals, so its good to see conservatives gathering. Our numbers are up from previous years.
Diana McAlister, of the Jim Creek precinct, came with previous caucus experience, but as a former Democrat who had campaigned for Mike Lowry. Not only did she echo the sentiments of many fellow Huckabee supporters, but she also expressed a disenchantment with the Democratic party.
He was integrity and understands that the people are his boss, McAlister said. We need to defend against Islamofascism and protect family rights. Huckabee respects individuals rights, but not at the expense of the larger population.
For 18-year-old Royal Overman, this year marks not only his first caucus, but also his first presidential election. While his ideal choice would be Ron Paul, he considers Huckabee a more realistic alternative.
I like Paul because hes for states rights, smaller government and abolishing federal institutions such as the Department of Education, said Overman, a strict constructionist. I prefer Huckabee to McCain because hes more of a social conservative, even though his economic policies are a bit more liberal. I support the right to life, the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, and the right to bear arms, so those are more important to me than economic policy.