I dig the caucus process -- it's kinda like a neighborhood mixer, without the alcohol ... which, at one point, we thought about going out to get, as 356 of us stood in the hallway of Leonides Cigarroa Elementary School in Northwest Dallas for a good 90 minutes awaiting entrance into the auditorium. (Precincts 1117 and 1118 caucused at the same location, with 200 signing in from 1117 and the remainder from 1118.) All in all, good times -- even as Obama supporters and Clinton backers debated their candidates' selling points in the hallway, with a few of my Clinton-loving neighbors insisting, ya know, they might not vote Obama in November if he winds up the Democratic nominee.
The Precinct 1117 Democratic election clerk, Amy Hunt, recalls the turnout last time: 20 folks in '04, and she brought the cookies. "This is unprecedented," she kept saying as she signed in Clinton and Obama supporters, who, unlike in other precincts around town, stayed in the same line -- which, like I said, made for ... what's the opposite of small talk? "Unprecedented." The Democratic precinct chair for 1118, Dan Butler, told his folks that he had only 10 people turn out last time -- a far cry from the 156 there tonight.
A few highlights: When Precinct 1118 opened up the floor to nominate a permanent precinct chair, an Obama supporter nominated a Clinton backer "in the spirit of working together." Didn't matter: Butler won the day. Still, though, the gesture got a huge round of applause from folks in both precincts.
Seating two precincts in one auditorium caused confusion: 1118 was supposed to fill the front of the house; 1117, the back. Still, folks argued over the friggin' seats: "I wanna know this is only 1118!" shouted one woman. Another elderly gentleman, walking to the back of the auditorium, muttered, "It's a mess."
When the auditorium was finally divided, for both precincts, into Obama and Clinton camps, Obama folks were told to sit on the left, while Clinton voters were moved to the right. "Sounds about right," said one Obama voter, tapping away on his BlackBerry.
David Bradley, the Fightin' 1117's Democratic precinct chair, had a very personal message for many of the folks in attendance: "I want to thank many of you for your kindness and well wishes these past few days," he said, explaining why he did not act as an election judge today. "In case you don't know, I lost my father on Thursday and we buried him yesterday." Yet he returned today to moderate the mess, which was anything but under his fine leadership this evening.
At around 8:30 p.m., Bradley announced that 200 signed in for Precinct 1117's caucus -- 101 for Obama (big whoops), 99 for Clinton. Over on the 1118's side, the numbers went in Clinton's favor by 13 votes. Whoops and hollers all 'round. --Robert Wilonsky
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