ELKO – Elko County Republicans lined the halls and filled the rooms of the Elko Conference Center Tuesday night to make their voices heard for who they want to see as their presidential nominee.
Upon entering the building, voters signed in and were directed to their respective precincts where they would not only discuss the candidate of their choice – or possibly confirm the selection through conversation – but were handed a sheet of paper listing the names of the candidates.
Once his or her nominee was selected, the voter turned the ballot over to an official, where it was placed in an envelope, and was then free to leave.
The three candidates who seemed to be on everyone’s minds were Sens. Ted Cruz and Macro Rubio and businessman Donald Trump, with the aforementioned senators appearing to be at the forefront.
Cruz won Elko County with 1,039 votes or about 43 percent and Trump came in second with 600 votes or 25 percent. Rubio was third in Elko County with 503 votes or about 21 percent.
Statewide Trump won the caucus with 34,531 votes or almost 46 percent. Rubio came in second with 17,940 votes and Cruz came in third with 16,079 votes.
Dr. Ben Carson and former Ohio governor John Kasich came in fourth and fifth, respectively. Neither had a double digit percentage of the votes in the state.
Tuesday’s caucus vote also helps to allocate who attends both the county and state conventions.
“Help us have a voice at the state convention, at the county convention … that’s why we’re here tonight,” said county party member-at-large Lynne Hoffman in Precinct Eight, as the process began.
She fervently stated the voices of the voters will make a difference in the coming election.
Precinct Captain Dave Mathewson spoke about his support for Sen. Ted Cruz.
Comparing him to President Ronald Reagan, Mathewson called Cruz’s beliefs “strong” and said he has “unwavering conservative values.”
Mathewson voiced issues that resonate with him: federal lands and the nomination to late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat.
He called the latter an “extremely serious matter,” which he would entrust to Sen. Cruz’s judgment.
“I felt like he had a better grasp on the issues in the West than some of the other candidates,” said Peggy Miller, explaining Cruz’s address to Elkoans Monday night impressed her.
She likes his strong conservatism, particularly his views concerning the Constitution.
She said she will vote Republican no matter who the candidate is, but she hopes it will be Cruz.
Precinct Five showed the duality of the Cruz versus Rubio debate.
One precinct member, in particular, felt every election they are faced with the lesser of two evils and that Cruz is a candidate who has a backbone.
Judy Hemenway spoke to the group, not as a supporter of a particular candidate, but of the issues important to her.
“We need to make this our country again,” she said, explaining fellow Republicans need someone who can stand up for the Constitution and look toward a man who is not part of the Washington establishment.
County Commissioner Delmo Andreozzi spoke to the same precinct of his support for Senator Marco Rubio. He said, telling the group his family emigrated from Italy, the Florida senator spoke to the American Dream and that everyone has “the ability to reach greatness.”
Andreozzi concluded he felt Rubio has the best chance for nominating a confirmation to Scalia’s seat.
Others around the caucus commented they like Rubio because he is not a polarizing candidate.
Back in Precinct Eight, attendees discussed the differences between Trump and Cruz. Cruz’s birthplace was a point of contention; it was also said Cruz had far more integrity that Trump, with one voter stating her future is more secure with Cruz.
County Commissioner Glen Guttry spoke to the Free Press after he voted.
“Rubio is the one I think has the best chance of beating Hillary Clinton. So, that’s who I like, but whoever the nominee is, whoever the candidate is, at the end of the day, that’s who I’m going to support,” he said, explaining he was not undecided before coming to the caucus.
Guttry said he finds Rubio to be more “down to earth” and has good ideas, including his stance on immigration.
“All the candidates, in my opinion, have good reason to be president and they all have some good ideas,” he said, explaining his main motivation to vote for Rubio was that Clinton could be the likely Democratic nominee.
Guttry and his wife, Casey, signed up for the Nevada State Convention and the Elko County Convention. Casey Guttry will also be on the Central Committee, he said.
“We all have to do our part. It’s easy to sit back say somebody else can do it, but we have to stand up and fight for what we believe in,” the commissioner concluded, discussing why they will be taking part in the conventions.
The Central Committee serves as a link between the party and the community in Elko County.
After coming into his precinct undecided, Duane Hoem said he was going to vote for Rubio.
“I’m retired military, and I’ve seen the military be deflated over the last seven years or so, and I think security of our country is really at risk. I think we need a president that understands international relations and understands the need for a really strong military,” he said, telling the Free Press Rubio is the candidate who seems to focus on that.
Hoem said he would vote for any of the three front-runners but Rubio best exhibits his beliefs.
The caucus was not only a place where voters could express their preferences, but also where a petitioner came for signatures.
“We’re concerned as business owners what this could do to Nevada business,” said Debbie Pawelek, of Natural Nutrition, as she was gaining more signatures to help repeal the Nevada Commerce Tax.
She said 55,000 signatures are needed from the State of Nevada and the store has gotten over 700.
“We’re hoping to get the 55,000 by June 21, and that will put it on the ballot where it can then be voted for or against,” said Pawelek, explaining that being at the caucus was a great place for registered voters and for her to inform others about the tax.
She said there are now 15 businesses carrying the petition.