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Caucuses draw nigh

Kitsap GOP, Democrats set to fire up the party aparatus.

The precinct caucus. It’s the root of American politics where decisions are made that can affect not only neighborhoods, but the state and nation.

And while presidential election year caucuses get a lot of attention, there’s still some weight behind off-year events, such as the ones planned in April around Kitsap County.

“People are becoming more aware of what’s going on and they’re willing to get more involved to become heard,” said Matt Cleverly, chairman of the Kitsap County Republican Party. “And precinct caucuses are good for people who are not political junkies to have their voices heard in a way that goes up the chain.”

Now in her 30th year of attending caucuses, Kitsap County Democrats chairwoman Sharon Peterson said she’s seen an increase in grassroots participation recently.

“It’s always fun to get together and meet your neighbors and they’re important so people turn out,” she said.

The Democrats’ precinct caucuses are planned for March 4, followed by the GOP caucuses on March 7.

Bainbridge Democrats will have two caucus sites, Woodward Middle School and Ordway Elementary School. Party members should check www.kitsapdemocrats.com to see which voting ward is assigned to which location.

Island Republicans will meet at the Bainbridge Commons in Waterfront Park; more information is available at www.kitsaprepublicans.org.

Each caucus is only open to party members, as the main job is to elect delegates to county conventions, choose candidates for the primary ballot and develop a political platform.

The GOP is requiring everyone to show their voter registration card as well as photo identification as proof of party membership. The Dems aren’t requiring ID, but everyone is required to register at the door and affirm their party membership if they want to have a vote.

All caucus voters need to be registered voters and be old enough to participate in the upcoming Nov. 7 general election.

The county chairs already have a good idea of what will be discussed, with both citing growth management issues, the NASCAR track proposal and county, state and national issues.

“We’re doing a survey of important issues for the state, county and their neighborhoods, not just those issues coming down from the state party,” Cleverly said.

On candidate selections, the choices are thin this far out from the primary election. Only a pair of races – the Central Kitsap county commissioner seat for the GOP and the sheriff’s race for the Dems – have more than one party candidate vying for the job.

“But you never know what could happen as the time grows closer,” Cleverly said.

The Republicans, county commission candidate Jack Hamilton said, already advanced the incumbent – the GOP’s Patty Lent – so he needs to get the support of 25 percent of the caucus vote to show up on the primary ballot.

“It’s one of those things that are important to the grassroots because every Republican can nominate their candidate to the county convention,” Cleverly said, “and because we are doing a nominating convention, it’s more important for those they want to see on the ballot in the primary.”

Precincts also will choose their voting delegates to the county conventions in April.

The Democrats meet April 8 at Olympic High School, while the Republicans meet April 22 at Crossroads Neighborhood Church in East Bremerton.

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