Turnout a big surprise for caucus organizers

Caucus site co-manager Sally Wylie realized the turnout would far exceed expectations Saturday when Republican participants were lined up outside St. Gall Pastoral Center in Gardnerville in 21-degree weather.

"We set up for 150; we have at least twice that here," said Wylie, dressed in red, white and blue set off by a sequined vest.

At Carson Valley Middle School, Democrats ran out of ballots as about 400 mid-town Gardnerville residents packed the multipurpose room.

At both locations, precinct captains and candidate representatives tried to outshout each other as participants figured out how to proceed in Nevada's early caucus.

Seth Littlefield, 79, sat alone at the Democrats' "Uncommitted" table.

"When you're undecided, you're really alone. It's not easy being by yourself," said Littlefield whose wife Lorraine was at the precinct's Hillary Clinton table.

"I haven't heard anybody say what they'll do about corruption," said the retired Air Force veteran.

Cristal Dickman, 23, and her husband, Edward, 28, brought their three children to St. Gall for the Republican caucus.

"Since the last election, we went from a couple to a family of five. We came to hear everything," Cristal Dickman said.

The Dickmans are early supporters of Ron Paul.

"We think he's the best with the budget for America," she said. "We agree with his values."

"Hopefully, there will be a few other small government conservatives here," said Edward Dickman, an electrical engineer at GE Bently.

Katherine Funk, 34, left her five children at home with her husband Christian .

"I'm here to voice my opinion and to vote," she said.

She said the caucus sneaked up on her.

"Our kids are 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10. I home-school them and I'm busy. I don't have a lot of time for the news," she said.

Mary Matthews, 41, of Gardnerville, a lifelong Republican, came Carson valley Middle School to register as a Democrat.

"I want to change to vote for Hillary," she said. "I agree with her vote on Yucca Mountain and health care, her 35 years of experience, and she's a woman."

Matthews' daughters Kaila, 17, and Jena Boss, 15, accompanied her along with their cousin Ashley Matthews, 16.

Kaila turns 18 in September and is a Barack Obama supporter. She heard the candidate speak recently in Carson City.

"I agree with what he says," she said. "He has a lot of fundamental ideas for checks and balances."

Denise and Dave Beronio of Fish Springs called 15 of their neighbors to turn out at St. Gall for their precinct.

The Beronios support Fred Thompson with Mitt Romney as an alternative.

"He (Thompson) is a federalist and believes in less government," said Denise Beronio, 38.

The Beronios are the parents of two small children and Dave, 32, is self-employed.

Nick Campagna, 16, and his 8-year-old sister Ashley, watched their 9-month-old brother Sebastian while their parents, Leonard and Angela, participated at St. Gall.

The Campagna family supports Ron Paul.

"He seems like the only one who really wants to change the country," Nick said. "He wants to bring the troops home from everywhere."

Even though Nick can't vote for a few years, he takes a passionate interest in politics.

"It's our generation that will be affected," Nick said, including his siblings.

"I think the decision today affects what happens in 10 years. It will still take a tremendous amount of time to undo what we've already done to this country."

Veronica Hawkins, 31, and her 6-year-old daughter Lexi watched the proceedings from the stage at St. Gall.

Hawkins is an Air Force veteran, a single mother and "living paycheck to paycheck."

She works for an optometrist and said she makes too much "on paper" to qualify for aid, but is barely making ends meet.

"I love Ron Paul," she said. "He's an Air Force veteran and served as a flight surgeon. I like his position on issues like gun control and health care. He'll make sure Lexi's health care is paid for."

Mike Ritter, 66, of Gardnerville, a retired South Lake Tahoe police officer, was backing Barack Obama.

"He's the one politician who will do something about the divisiveness in the country. He's running an extremely clean campaign," he said.

Ritter said his concerns were health care and the war in Iraq.

Twenty-two-year-old Joseph Spencer of Gardnerville also supported Obama.

"He reminds me of (John) Kennedy," Spencer said. "Although he's a minority, I don't think that matters."

Agnes Leonard, 82, of Gardnerville, was wearing a Mitt Romney sticker, but cast her vote for Ron Paul.

"Somebody gave this to me," she said about the sticker.

Leonard said she supported Paul because of his concern for the military. She also backed his pro-life position.

"He never aborted babies," she said.

Leonard said she attended the caucus as a responsible voter.

"I always vote, but this is confusing," she said, echoing the feelings of many who were waiting to vote for their preferred candidate.

Stacie Ausherman, 30, and her 3-1/2-year-old son Skyller, attended the proceedings at St. Gall.

Ausherman said she was told she arrived too late to participate.

"I wasn't here at 9 a.m., but it didn't specify on my card that I had to be here exactly at 9 a.m. They told me I could observe," she said.

Ausherman said she was very disappointed she wasn't able to support Duncan Hunter.

"We've been here for three years and I wanted to be part of my new community. It was disappointing to get shut out," she said.

Ausherman said her son had an earache, but she brought him anyway.

"When you have a 3-year-old, you can't always get here on time," she said.


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