Reid hails ‘civil’ hometown huddle

SEARCHLIGHT — Even though the Senate majority leader stood just feet away, it was 70-year-old Sharon Sloper who was the focus of political horse trading Saturday at the Searchlight Community Center.

A supporter of failed candidate Joe Biden, Sloper entered the Democratic caucus site in the hometown of Sen. Harry Reid without a presidential candidate to back and soon found herself standing under a sign that read “undecided.”

Supporters of Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama vied loudly for her support.

“C’mon, girl!” Clinton’s camp shouted.

But Sloper inched toward the Obama group, where she finally settled.

In the end, two participants — including Reid, who because of his position decided not to choose sides during the high-profile caucus that he was largely responsible for securing for the Silver State — remained undecided.

Although the turnout didn’t approach the throngs of fired-up participants at larger urban precincts, Reid said he was pleased with the attendance in the old mining town.

“What I was afraid of is I’d come out here and it would just be me and Stan standing here,” Reid said, referring to Stan Colton, precinct captain and former state treasurer. “This is an important day in the history of the country. This is an important day in the history of our state. We really have to change the direction of this country.”

Caucus participants, who ranged in age from their 20s to their 90s, agreed with Reid that a change in the country’s administration is vital. Most agreed that the caucus was a positive method for choosing a nominee.

“I decided to come by because it sounded really cool, a neat process,” said Lena Koschmann, a park ranger who recently moved to Cottonwood Cove from Alaska. Koschmann threw her support behind Obama.

Even with the backing of Koschmann and Sloper, Obama received support from only 12 of the 69 registered voters in the Searchlight Democratic caucus. Clinton attracted 35 supporters, and 20 backed Edwards.

That will translate into one delegate each from the Searchlight caucus to the county convention for Obama and Edwards. Three delegates will represent Clinton.

“Wasn’t that fun?” Reid asked after the results were read. “This is really democracy in action. This was fun, and it was very civil.”

Reid downplayed last week’s legal fight between the teachers union and Culinary union over at-large caucus sites on the Strip. He believes Democrats ultimately will rally behind the party’s nominee.

“There used to be fistfights at the state convention,” Reid said. “These were lawyers in federal court. People make their arguments, but it didn’t mean anything.”

Earlier Saturday, during Searchlight’s Republican caucus, candidate Mitt Romney received the most votes, 11, and Mike Huckabee came in second with six. Participants appeared disappointed that only 24 Republicans showed up at the community center.

“It’s important we all get in as representatives in Searchlight and let our voice be known,” 20-year resident Chris Lieurance said after nobody volunteered to be a delegate to the county convention.

His rallying call resonated with some fellow Republicans who otherwise quietly filled out their ballots.

“We have got to get people involved in this thing if we want to have a shot,” Searchlight resident Ed Morgan said.

Contact reporter Adrienne Packer at apacker or (702) 384-8710.

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