Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

At Spokane County GOP caucus, voting but no debate

The Spokane County Republicans held their caucus Saturday, but they didn’t debate a platform or argue in favor of their favorite presidential candidate.

Instead, they picked delegates to the GOP county convention on April 9.

Some participants were disappointed with their lack of input into the Republican Party’s eventual presidential nominee.

Caucus veteran and retired attorney Ellen Gephart, who caucused at the downtown Spokane Public Library, said she would have preferred the former caucus system the party used, in part, because it encouraged the exchange of ideas.

“People come out to discuss the platform and the candidates, but we don’t know who we are supposed to support at the convention,” she said.

Republicans at the caucus didn’t have a say for president because the state party decided to use the Washington presidential primary in May to determine which presidential candidates their delegates will back at the GOP National Convention. Democrats, meanwhile, will ignore the results of the May vote and use only their caucus next month to help choose their party’s eventual presidential nominee.

County delegates chosen in the caucus Saturday will help select state delegates, and those delegates will vote for a presidential candidate in late May. Washington delegates sent to the national convention in Cleveland will be required to vote based on state primary outcome only in the first round of voting. If the party doesn’t select a nominee in the first vote, the delegates can then vote for whomever they want.

Gephart, who was elected as a county delegate in her precinct, said she prefers to vote for candidates who have experience as governors.

“I think Jeb Bush would be a great president, but I don’t think he has a chance,” she said. “Rubio is probably where my vote would go.”

Her alternate delegate, Jodi Person, said she considers herself a Republican after previously identifying as an independent.

“I’m looking at both Trump and Rubio,” Person said.

About 50 people turned out Saturday at the Downtown Spokane Library to represent 29 precincts in part of the 3rd Legislative District, a Democratic stronghold. Most precincts were represented by only one or two people, or none at all. But two precincts drew a crowd of a half dozen. People settled in next to their neighbors to shake hands and introduce themselves.

The crowd included Spokane County Republican Party Vice President Stephanie Cates, who announced that she’d been told that candidate Ted Cruz plans to visit Coeur d’Alene on March 7. She also thanked the participants for showing up.

“This is grass-roots politics at its finest,” Cates said.

Saturday was the first caucus for Gonzaga University law student Courtney Bell. She said she wanted to get involved in the political process and to see which candidate people were supporting. She favors Marco Rubio.

“He can win,” she said. “I agree with him more on a lot of issues.”