On Sunday afternoon, when many Democrats across Puget Sound were mowing their lawns, others were getting down to business on what one party leader called a “grass-roots level.”
Despite low attendance at the precinct caucus at the Sharon McGavick Center on the Clover Park Technical College campus, the 50 or so people present were passionate about President Barack Obama and his vision for the nation.
Still, Rosa Franklin, chair of the 29th District Democrats, summed up the turnout in one word: “Terrible.”
Some precincts had nary a voter present, making it impossible to elect their delegates to the Pierce County Convention. Others named just one or two people in attendance to the April 29 event.
Franklin said that in her 20 years in the state Legislature–she retired from the Senate at the end of 2010–it wasn't uncommon for participation to be down in years when the party’s candidate was an incumbent. But Sunday was a new experience–even with the merging of Districts 29, 2 and 25 under the redrawn legislative boundaries.
“In all of my years of involvement, I can’t remember having a precinct caucus on a Sunday,” she said. “And I’ve never seen attendance with these numbers.
“This is the real grass-roots level.”
It was a similar story around the region–editors from the 14 Patch cities the event reported low turnouts, including 12 people at the District 37 caucus in , around 60 combined at the three District 26 locations in and about 30 from District 28 at Curtis Junior High in .
But despite their candidate being a sitting president, Franklin said, the Democrats have work to do.
“For me, even one person is a crowd,” she said. “You get to work.”
Precinct officer Joan Harris of Tacoma said she had spoken with voters in her neighborhood in the 29th District but that the weather likely kept them away.
“A lot of them have gardens,” she said with a rueful laugh. “I think if the weather was rainy, they’d have come.”
Even so, Harris said that it is disappointing that people chose sunshine over democracy.
“The Republican Party didn’t stay home,” she said.
April Sims was the only person in attendance from her District 29 precinct in Tacoma–other than her daughters, Niah, 9, and Jasmine, 12–but said that numbers were less important than showing support for President Obama.
“It kind of serves as a reminder that we can’t take anything for granted,” she said. “We didn’t in 2008, and we had some great wins. We can’t sit back and make those assumptions this year.”
Chief among the issues attendees were passionate about was the economy.
“The American Dream was to own an automobile and a house,” said Abe Adams, a precinct chair from District 2 in Spanaway. “Now, they’re out of reach for most people.”
So is Obama the man to resurrect the dream?
“If he gets support,” Adams said with a shrug. “He isn’t getting any now.”
Robbin Wood-Yount, from District 2 in Frederickson, was more emphatic about Obama’s political prowess, calling his first term “amazing.”
“After eight years of disaster, there was a lot to fix,” she said. “There’s never an end to challenges, but I think he’ll continue to manage them–and manage them well.”
Her husband, Bob, the chair of their precinct, added that while no one is happy about the state of the economy, “the Republicans aren’t offering a valid candidate.”
Despite the low turnout–Robbin was the only delegate elected from their district since the rules state if there are two people and both are for the same candidate, only one can be chosen–the Wood-Younts said they were just as excited as they were in 2008, when about 60 people showed up to the caucus from their precinct.
“We’re very excited,” she said. “Obama has done some amazing things, and I think he’ll be the one to lead us in the right direction.”