Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect the final results of the election.
The line wrapped out the door and around the corner of the entrance to the Soldotna Sports Complex, with more people coming every few minutes.
“This is the most people I’ve ever seen (turn out),” said Ross Morrison, a Soldotna resident. “This is great.”
Morrison and his wife, Jan, queued up Tuesday to put their presidential picks on paper for the first time. Both said they voted for Donald Trump.
“He can’t be bought,” Jan Morrison said. “I remember his mother going on the news … and saying, ‘If you take every penny away from him, within a year, he’ll be rich again.’ He started when he was 16. He worked his way up.”
Ross Morrison encouraged everyone to turn out and vote.
“Our country is at a turning point,” Ross Morrison said. “Not voting is the same as pushing the button for Hillary (Clinton).”
The Morrisons joined thousands of other Kenai Peninsula Republicans as well as voters nationwide on Tuesday during the Republican Presidential Primary Poll, Alaska’s Republican presidential candidate selection process. The election is not the final decision for Alaska’s choice for president — the number of delegates from the state will be allotted to each candidate who earns more than 13 percent of the popular vote. The delegates will then go to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July, where the nominee for the Republican Party will be chosen.
Final results show candidate Ted Cruz as the winner of the Presidential Preference Poll, with 36.4 percent of the vote. Trump followed closely with 33.5 percent, and candidate Marco Rubio finished with 15.13 percent of the vote. The other two candidates, Ben Carson and John Kasich, did not win enough of the vote to receive delegates from the state. Cruz will receive 12 delegates, Trump will receive 11 and Rubio will receive five.
When the polls opened at 3 p.m., there were already people lined up at Kenai’s New Life Assembly of God Church on Princess Street in Kenai. By 4:30 p.m., more than 1,000 ballots had been cast at that one location, said Neal DuPerron, one of the volunteers at the church. Soldotna Sports Complex had had about 1,600 votes cast at the same time, he said.
“It’s been pretty nonstop,” he said.
Though voters in Soldotna and Kenai voiced support for Trump, some voters in Nikiski preferred Cruz and Rubio. Brian Bielenberg of Nikiski, who voted for Rubio along with his wife, Heather, said he likes “the way (Rubio) handles himself.”
“Anybody’s better than Donald Trump right now,” he said. “We’re pretty simple people here. … Don’t really have much of an opinion on it, just Donald Trump’s an ass.”
Jim Graige of Nikiski voted for Ted Cruz, who he met when he came to the Soldotna Sports Complex to stump for U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan during the 2014 campaign. He said he shook Cruz’s hand and suggested he run for president.
“He’s not in a reality TV show, he’s not on the Apprentice show. I think he got where he is from hard work, he’s well educated. … You’re not going to back him into a corner so he wont know how to respond, and I think he’ll do a good job for us.”
Peter Goldberg, chairman of the Alaska Republican Party, said the turnouts were out the door across the state. Even though the polling places started with 70 percent more ballots than they had four years ago, volunteers were having to run out and get more copies of the ballots and voter registration forms to keep up with demand, he said.
“I’m getting this report all over the state,” Goldberg said. “Not just the ballots, but people are switching from nonpartisan to Republican because they want to vote.”
Goldberg said he thought the biggest reason for the higher-than-average turnout was because Republicans have been upset with the decisions that President Barack Obama’s administration has made.
“I believe it’s everywhere because the American people, and particularly Republicans, are fed up with all that Barack Obama and his compatriots have done to this country for the past seven years,” Goldberg said.