Strong primary showing gives insight to Kansas democratic voice

Kyle Almond

The evening of Feb. 5 at sites across Kansas, the Democratic Party hosted one of its largest-ever caucuses in the state of Kansas. At one site alone, the National Guard’s Metcalf Memorial Armory in Lawrence, 1,267 Kansas Democrats cast their votes.

A caucus works by having attendees separate into groups based on which candidate they support. Based on the percentage of attendees each candidate receives, they are allocated a number of delegates for the national convention. The delegates are elected from among the attendees. For the city of Lawrence, Senator Barack Obama had 3,911 supporters to Senator Hillary Clinton’s 936.

In the 2004 election, Kansas had approximately 1,300 people show up for the caucus. This year’s attendees gave a myriad of reasons for the turnout. Most cited a desire for change or the ability of a candidate to inspire them.

“I just like the idea,” said Lisa Koch of Lawrence. “It is rare for Kansas Democrats to have a say.”

One Clinton volunteer said she was attracted to Clinton’s stance on the economy and healthcare but also to her reputation. Another attendee, self-termed “screaming liberal” Chris Bower, looked to Obama as his candidate of choice.

“[Obama is] the one that can bring about radical change,” said Bower.

The dedication of the attendees was certainly put to the test. Many people ended up waiting in line for 45 minutes to an hour in the below-freezing weather.

At the Armory caucus site, 955 people were counted as Obama supporters, combining with 304 for Clinton, 17 for Dennis Kucinich and 9 for John Edwards for a total of 1,285. The nature of a caucus – that people are asked to stand in groups based on their candidate preference and then are physically counted – accounted for the fact that 18 people got counted twice.

Nationwide, Obama has won 18 states while Clinton has won 12. Additionally, Obama has secured 971 delegates with Clinton close behind at 915. To secure the Democratic nomination, 2,025 delegates are needed.

The entire evening was a sight to behold. People parked in red zones at the Holiday Inn and took off running in order to arrive in time to have their voices heard. They stood in line with umbrellas and heavy coats for up to an hour just to cast their votes. Despite strong divides as to which candidates they supported, most of the people were united in love for country and hope that this election will supply the change they desire.

“That’s indicative of the enthusiasm that people have for voting for a Democrat this fall,” said Tom Holland, chair of one of the 50 caucus locations in the state of Kansas.

More than that, it was a testament to the belief that one’s voice does count in a democracy.