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    Western students participate in Washington’s caucus

    Western graduate Kendall Theile attended the caucus at Sehome High School hoping to be convinced on which candidate to support. // Photo by Matthew Pearson
    Western graduate Kendall Theile attended the caucus at Sehome High School hoping to be convinced on which candidate to support. // Photo by Matthew Pearson

    Senator Bernie Sanders (l-Vt.) won big in the Washington State Democratic caucuses Saturday, March 26, receiving 72.7 percent of the vote, according to the Associated Press.

    Sanders also secured victories in Alaska and Hawaii on the same day, inching closer to Democratic party front-runner Hillary Clinton’s lead for the nomination.

    After earning 55 delegates during Saturday’s caucus, Sanders’ pledged delegate count is up to 980, compared to Clinton’s 20 delegates won and total of 1,243 delegates. Add in the Democratic Party leaders who have yet to pledge support for a candidate and the totals come to Clinton with 1,712 delegates and Sanders with 1,004 delegates, with 2,383 delegates needed to win the nomination.

    A pledged delegate is legally required to vote for a candidate once they have made their decision. The delegates yet to pledge, referred to as superdelegates, can say who they plan to vote for, but are allowed to change their minds before they vote. Clinton has 469 superdelegates compared to Sanders’ 31.

    Western Junior Sasa Vukovic went to the caucus held at Sehome High School. Vukovic said at least 1,000 people crammed into the cafeteria to have their voices heard and votes counted. Vukovic sides with Sanders because he said his message has been consistent for 40 years.

    “Since he started in the House of Representatives,  [Sanders] has been talking a lot about income and equality, such as the rich getting richer and the middle class dissipating,” Vukovic said.

    Vukovic said that he was in favor of Sanders’ policies, including his stance for LGBT rights and against gross military spending, that have remained true since the 80’s.

    Vukovic said this was his first time attending a presidential primary event and he was voted by his peers to be an alternate delegate. This means Vukovic would replace a delegate if they are not able to cast their vote at the next primary.

    Junior Rosa Tobin caucused for Clinton in Walla Walla, despite knowing her state would likely go with Sanders. Tobin said her precinct of about 30 people still managed to snag a delegate away from Sanders.

    “As a young person, a millennial and a woman, I wanted to show that this demographic supports her too,” Tobin said. “It’s cool to be sitting next to 70-year-old women who have been supporting women’s rights for so long. It makes me feel like I’m on the right side of this.”

    Tobin said that being a Clinton supporter at Western has led to some awkward encounters with those that side with Sanders.

    “Sometimes, people will assume since I’m a Democrat, I’m voting for Bernie,” Tobin said. “It was weird the first few times it happened. It feels like they expect me to have to defend myself.”

    Junior Heide Davis, a Sanders proponent, attended a caucus in her hometown of Vancouver. Davis said the crowd of 500 appeared to be “40-and-up and white,” which surprised her as she felt most of Sanders’ supporters were college students.

    Davis convinced her 63-year-old mother to come and caucus with her for the first time.

    Junior Taylor Crowell was in New York over spring break and couldn’t attend his precinct’s caucus.

    However, before he left, Crowell filled out an absentee form which allowed him to participate. Crowell said he encouraged his friends to fill one out if they were going out of town too.

    Crowell said that Sanders’ wins could be a turning point for his campaign because it shows his campaign can still challenge Clinton’s.

    Wisconsin, Wyoming and Clinton’s home state of New York will be the next three states to award delegates to the candidates.

    Washington State’s 44 Republican delegates will be awarded in the GOP primary held May 24.

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