Cries of “Feel the Bern” filled Kenai’s Challenger Learning Center on Saturday morning as Democrats from across the central Kenai Peninsula gathered to caucus.
More than 250 people from districts 29, 30 and 31 attended the event, packing the room. Many bore stickers declaring their support for Sen. Bernie Sanders, but others wore the dark blue sticker indicating support for Hillary Clinton, his rival for the Democratic nomination. The attendees jostled one another for a chance to register to vote. Many said this was their first year caucusing, coming out especially to support their candidate of choice this year.
Sharon Waisanen, the district chair for District 30, said the attendance was likely so high because the event hosted three districts because of the redistricting since the last election.
Sanders won Alaska in a landslide in the final count on Saturday. Sanders took 81.6 percent of the vote and Clinton took the remainder, according to the results from the Alaska Democratic Party. Sanders will receive 440 state convention delegates and Clinton will receive 99. Sanders was also projected to win Washington on Saturday, leading Clinton by more than 44 percent.
In Kenai, the majority was clear. When the districts fanned out by candidate preference, nearly three-quarters of the room for District 30 packed into the corner for Bernie Sanders. Though there were technically three candidates running — Rocky de la Fuente of California declared his candidacy last October — only Sanders and Clinton received votes.
Haley Trefon said she was impressed by the turnout and surprised by how many Democrats from the Sterling and Nikiski areas turned out. Though she was only there to observe, she said she definitely planned to vote in the general election.
“The way the election is running so far, I’m really interested in the way things are turning out,” she said. “I’m amazed at how many Bernie supporters there (are) compared to the Hillary supporters. I’m happy for either one that gets put in.”
Misha James-Ravin, who was also there just to observe, said she would prefer Sanders be the nominee, but she said she was willing to vote for whoever had the better shot at beating the Republican candidate.
“At this point, it’s probably Hillary, but I really like Bernie,” she said.
Michele Vasquez, one of the volunteers for Clinton on the Kenai Peninsula, said she supported Clinton because of her history of supporting women and overcoming obstacles facing women.
“I’m supporting Hillary because to me she is the clear choice for (President Barack) Obama’s legacy,” Vasquez said during her speech to the caucus attendees.
Amy Jackman, who helped coordinate the Bernie Sanders campaign on the Kenai Peninsula, referenced Sanders’ opposition to the current campaign finance system and his promises to improve the economy for the middle class and urged the attendees to support him.
“Freedom of speech does not mean the freedom to buy United States government,” Jackman said. “Our democracy is under fierce attack.”
The delegates will represent their respective candidates at the statewide conference in Anchorage from May 13–15.