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Local GOP picks Romney — by a nose
San Juan Island’s libertarian leanings hit full stride early on at the Republican party precinct caucus, Saturday, at the Grange Hall in Friday Harbor.
In the end, however, San Juan’s GOP faithful joined their county counterparts in endorsing former Massachusetts governor and Republican front runner Mitt Romney’s bid for the party’s presidential nomination.
But not by much.
Romney drew a combined 62 votes in county GOP’s non-binding straw poll, eclipsing Texas Congressman Ron Paul’s total, 56, by only six. Rick Santorum tallied 52 votes and Newt Gingrich had 48.
The walls of the Grange were lined by a standing-room-only crowd as party members pitched the merits of their favorites at the outset of Saturday’s two-hour caucus.
“My biggest concern is big government, Marxist style,” Rene Polda said in support of GOP candidate Ron Paul. Others echoed Polda’s praise for the Texas Congressman and his ultra-conservative fiscal platform.
“The most important thing to me is a balanced budget,” one party member said. “I don’t expect Ron Paul to be the winner, but it’s for him to be at the national convention so he’s able to have input with his financial constraints.”
San Juan No. 4 precinct officer Norris Palmer proved succinct.“Unlike his opponents, Ron Paul has never flipped-flopped,” he said.
Romney had supporters as well. As did Santorum, who Jill Urbach believes speaks to the “core values” that are a foundation for many.
“Look how he’s grown,” she said of Santorum’s recent surge in the polls and primary victories. “Mitt Romney may be the safe choice, but that doesn’t mean he’s the best choice.”
Results of Saturday’s straw poll on San Juan, as well as countywide (San Juan County has 17 voting precinct, seven of which are on San Juan), reflect those of the statewide GOP caucus. Romney gained 37 percent of the statewide straw poll, Paul had 24.8 percent and Santorum had 23.8 percent.
County GOP party chairwoman Michelle Loftus, noted there’s more at stake at the caucus than just the presidential straw poll. Party members discuss, debate and endorse, or not, initiatives to be included as planks in the party platform, and chose delegates for the upcoming county caucus, which will also take place at the Grange Hall, March 24.At that county caucus, seven delegates will be selected to attend the state party convention.
Loftus said she was tickled by the large turnout on San Juan, as well as at the other islands’ precinct caucuses, and by the intensity and civility of the various discussions and debates.
“We had barely enough chairs for everyone, and that’s a good problem to have,” she said.