I had to squeeze my way through the crowd packing the gymnasium at Alex Sanger Elementary School for the Democrat caucus in Precinct 2228, which started promptly at 7:16 p.m. The noise level was so high that someone finally let out a screeching whistle to shut up everybody long enough to hear instructions.
“I am precinct chair, and I am here -- and where is the microphone?” shouted a woman named Kristen. With her clipboard raised high, she moved through the crowd like a seasoned waitress carrying a tray filled with chicken-fried steaks bound for a table of lumberjacks. Fine, then -- a little hyperbole. But the turnout was phenomenal.
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Everyone I knew from Forest Hills and Little Forest Hills was attending their first caucus ever. The crowd was spilling over into the cafeteria. Why’d they come out? “This is the first year the caucus votes have mattered,” one told me.
The chair told the crowd to quiet down and explained that after everyone signed in, they would be electing 37 delegates and 37 alternates. Tables along the walls were labeled for either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.
Nicolette Schwanz, a 28-year-old hairstylist, waited patiently in line for her chance to sign up. “I’m for Obama,” she told me. “I’m tired of the dynasties of Clinton and Bush, and I’m for this man. I like his healthcare policies. That’s real important for people my age.” Another first-time caucus-er: my 24-year-old son Eric. Very cool.
At first the crowd looked pretty evenly split between Clinton and Obama, but as the lines coalesced, more seemed to be crowding around the Obama tables. A volunteer was running around trying to find a Clinton volunteer to sit at an Obama table with an Obama volunteer, to make sure there was no hanky panky. No takers. They were waiting their chance to sign in for their man. --Glenna Whitley