February 23, 2016 - 10:53 pm
Sun City Summerlin Mountain Shadows Community Center, 9107 Del Webb Blvd, Las Vegas
Paul Winn knew early Tuesday night who he would support. Sitting inside the door at Mountain Shadows before check-in, Winn was plastered with stickers for Marco Rubio and Donald Trump.
He planned to vote for John Kasich, of course.
“He has a really broad background of experience. He’s done more than any of these guys,” Winn said.
The stickers, he said, came from workers for other campaigns who slapped them on him as they walked by.
Winn said he wasn’t sure he’d stay to argue his points. The night looked like a long one, with an estimated 1,200 caucus-goers snaked around three buildings on the community center’s campus.
For Gary McKuin, Tuesday night would be quick. He planned to vote for Trump and immediately go to the candidate’s watch party at Treasure Island.
“I hope to hear a victory speech,” McKuin said. “I like Trump’s ideas about the world and immigration.”
Jack and Jackie Smith planned a slower exit. It was their first caucus. The Rubio supporters wanted to see how the process worked, and maybe even speak on behalf of their candidate.
“We want to change the direction of the country,” Jack said. “We want fiscal responsibility, more active foreign support and strength for Israel.”
In the end, the Smiths didn’t speak. Just four people took the stage, including former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who drew a chorus of boos when he announced his support for Ted Cruz.
There were also fireworks when Rubio supporter Navid Farzan criticized Trump’s weakness on foreign policy.
“You’re wrong!” screamed a woman who marched to the foot of the stage before taking her seat.
And Winn? Farzan and the Smiths would be glad to know he switched to Rubio at the last second.
“Honest to God, I don’t think Kasich has a chance, so I thought I’d give Marco a chance to beat the hell out of Trump,” Winn said. “Let’s make it a race.”
— Jennifer Robison
Canyon Springs High School, 350 E. Alexander Road, North Las Vegas
Call it quiet caucus Chaos.
The line stretched into the parking lot at Canyon Springs High School for a good chunk of the night. Many waited hours to spend just a minute or two casting their ballot, without discussion.
Assistant Site Manager Saul Varela said turnout was well above what volunteers had been told to expect. He guessed 60 percent to 70 percent more. The masses were a surprise, especially considering the location in Democrat-leaning North Las Vegas, he said.
“They’re angry, they’re cold and they see this 18-year-old with no hair on his face,” Varela said with a laugh in describing himself.
But he called the big angry crowd inspiring. It means people care.
Dan Brooks, 51, came to support Ted Cruz, whom he chose by “kind of process of elimination.”
“Frankly, even with this many people in the race as there are, I still don’t feel like ‘my guy’ is in the race,” he said.
“If I had my choice we would resurrect Reagan,” said his daughter, Dani, who will be 18 in time for the election.
“Unfortunately we don’t have that choice,” said her dad, shaking his head.
As for the caucus, he throught the process dumb; needlessly complicated.
“It should be a primary,” he said. “Keep it simple.”
Some were angry that the format didn’t allow more active discourse.
Varela said he didn’t think most people minded. The question he got over and over again at the door: Do we have to stay the whole time?
Once the line dwindled, people were allowed two minutes to talk about a candidate.
Without microphones, few could be heard.
Voting was more or less done by then, anyway.
— Bethany Barnes
Green Valley High School, 460 N. Arroyo Grande Blvd, Henderson
For more than an hour, the line wrapped from the door of the cafeteria, through the courtyard, down the entryway and curved around the front of Green Valley High School.
More than 20 volunteers manned a row of tables along the entrance of the school’s cafeteria, checking in voters and handing them ballots.
Aside from the line, voters at the Nevada Republican caucus site were able to leave quickly, with many choosing to cast their ballots and leaving without discussing the presidency with neighbors and fellow voters.
Sitting around a lunch table with three Donald Trump supporters, one John Kasich supporter and a Marco Rubio fan, Pat Ropella stayed for the chatter.
Ropella called Trump too divisive for the presidency. Al Hansen, the Kasich supporter, said he isn’t sure Trump and most of the other candidates understand the importance of the first year in office.
Trump supporter Bill Williams said there’s one major advantage to Trump.
“He’s his own man,” he said.
One thing they all agree on is “ABC” — anyone but Clinton, Ropella said.
— Pashtana Usufzy
Del Sol High School, 3100 E. Patrick, Las Vegas
In one of five classrooms set aside for larger precincts, caucus volunteer Kenneth Weissman, 58, was trying to calm unhappy voters that were mistakenly sent there without being issued ballots. They were now being asked to return to the crowded cafeteria.
When asked what a caucus was, Weissman said told a man “That means you talk to your neighbor.”
The man quipped, “Not many people here want to do that.”
In the cafeteria, Kevin Tyler, 18, was frustrated after being told by a volunteer that his vote might not count.
Tyler, along with his mother and two friends, were under the impression that they could come in, vote and be on their way. Now, a volunteer was explaining that his mother and friends might need to try again because their IDs weren’t verified by the assigned volunteer, who failed to show up. An unauthorized precinct member who wasn’t assigned to verify others had done so.
“They didn’t tell us we had to call someone over to verify,” said Tyler, a first-time voter supporting Cruz.
Tyler texted his mother to return from church and bring his ID. An hour later mother and son voted together.
By 7:30 p.m., Weissman had scribbled on his name tag, changing “Roving Manager” to “Raving manager.”
But while turning off classroom lights, Weissman said he was proud of the resilient voters.
“It worked out, but there was just confusion in the beginning,” he said.
— Alex Corey
Centennial High School, 10200 W. Centennial Parkway, Las Vegas
Elvis voted for Trump.
Paige Poole, a Las Vegas-based entertainer and tribute artist with long, thick sideburns, walked into Centennial High School on Tuesday evening, checking off his ballot.
“I’m thinking Elvis is a Trump guy,” he said, black coiffed hair bouncing as he spoke. “He’s no nonsense. He’s all about Americans. He loves his country. So did Elvis Presley.”
Monday Poole left a gig at Sunset Station and drove straight to Trump’s rally at South Point. Dressed in full costume, he had his picture taken with the candidate. Poole offered to perform for free as The King at Trump’s inauguration party.
“He said, ‘Take care of my Elvis,'” Poole said. “He knows who I am. He knows my face.”
Before leaving the caucus, he took a picture of his wife, Adele Poole, snapping a picture of her ballot.
“This is the first time we’ve ever backed a candidate from start to finish,” he said. “I want to make sure our votes go in the right pouch, because there is widespread panic right now, between the Democrats and Republicans, that there’s fraud going on.”
Another caucus-goer, Dane Sensers, created giant playing cards with an image of Trump on the ace of hearts. The other side of the card said “Play Your Trump Card.” He leaned the card up against a wall of the school’s auditorium, next to a joker card with Hillary Clinton’s face on one side and Bernie Sanders on the other.
Senser said he was homeless, depressed and uninspired by politicians and the government but Trump’s candidacy motivated him to get a job as a tour guide.
“There was no motivation from our country,” he said.
He watched the now-famous footage of Trump riding down an escalator and had a gut feeling, “like a premonition at a craps table — play 6 or play 11 — and you play it, and it hits. That’s how it felt. I thought: That guy is going to be president.”
— David Ferrara
Bonanza High School, 6665 Del Rey Ave., Las Vegas
Long lines streamed down the block outside Bonanza High School, as Republican voters waited to caucus.
Many wore colorful t-shirts and hats touting their candidate.
There were hiccups.
A Rubio staffer said an associate was able to check in to caucus at the site without being asked to show photo ID. Sue Lowden, a site supervisor, said she instructed workers to do the final step of asking to see photo identification after that issue was brought to her attention. She said it was one of the few initial bumps in the rush of people checking in, and it was promptly addressed.
Nichole Everson, 47, and her son Nathan Everson, 18, were caucusing for the first time. Both support Rubio, saying the candidate shows his Christian values. Nathan said Rubio’s ties to Las Vegas also add to his appeal.
“Las Vegas is his old stomping grounds,” said the Rancho High School senior, adding that four of his classmates were also caucusing Tuesday.
For some, the choice wasn’t even made yet. Victor Sun, 38, an emergency room physician, had backed Rand Paul. With the Kentucky senator out of the race, Sun was still weighing choices while waiting in line.
Rubio was “starting to look like the least bad choice,” he said. “I think he has the best chance to stop Trump. He’s well spoken.”
Eric Christensen, a 56-year-old architect, said he’s backing Cruz.
“He’s the most constitutional conservative,” Christensen said.
Cruz is a better choice over Trump, he said. “Trump is all over the map. Who can trust him?”
— Ben Botkin
Caughlin Ranch Elementary School, 4885 Village Green Parkway, Reno
Gov. Brian Sandoval was one of hundreds at Caughlin Ranch Elementary School on Tuesday to vote in the First in the West GOP presidential caucus.
Sandoval said he voted for Sen. Marco Rubio, calling him the most qualified of the candidates. But Sandoval said he has not yet endorsed Rubio, and acknowledged he has concerns with the Florida senator’s support of Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste dump.
Sandoval said he will “demand” that Rubio work with him on the issue that is so vital to many Nevada voters, should he win the presidency.
About 80 people crowded into Precinct 8100 in a school classroom. There was no real public debate — most simply signed a register, dropped ballots in a box and went about their business.
The process was smooth but the final vote was stalled by a shortage of ballots. More soon were delivered.
Steve Gill was one of the first to arrive. He backed Trump.
“He’s not part of the establishment,” Gill said. “He stood up to the Pope the other day. I’ve never seen anyone do that before.”
Gill said Trump will stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin and other world leaders who want to pressure the U.S. on foreign policy.
— Sean Whaley