Sanders defeats Clinton in Nebraska Democratic caucus

Caucus goers express their preference at Metropolitan Community College (Photo by Dan Moser, NET News)
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March 5, 2016 - 11:55pm

Sen. Bernie Sanders defeated former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Nebraska Democratic caucuses Saturday, after a day of individual decisions and politicking across the state.


In a crowded meeting room at Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, nearly 600 caucus-goers gathered to express their preferences between Sanders and Clinton. Interviews before the caucus started reflected strong support for both candidates.

Jeff Koneck was there to support Sanders. “I believe that Hillary Clinton is an awesome candidate, but I think Sanders is going to do this country better. It’s about time we had somebody who understood the fact that the middle class is not going anywhere, and only the upper class is getting’ rich. And we’re sick of it,” Koneck said.

Coming down on the other side was Clinton supporter Jarrod Pattavina. “I think that Bernie Sanders has a lot of enthusiasm behind him, but Hilary Clinton has the experience and the know-how in order to get things done in Washington, which is what we need right now,” Pattavina declared.

LaVerne Harris said she likes some of Sander’s positions, but sides with Clinton. “She’s very qualified. She’s very independent. She knows what she’s doing. She’s been there. Plus, hey, she is a woman,” Harris said.

Bryson Wilson came to support Sanders. But unlike many others, Wilson said he wouldn’t support the Democrats if Clinton gets the nomination. Wilson said if Trump were the Republican nominee, he would support Trump. Wilson explained that likes Trump’s “sincerity on issues,” adding Clinton “has appeared to be changeable on a lot of issues.”

When the time came to divide up to vote, state Sen. Heath Mello, acting as caucus chairman, explained “The preference group leader from each campaign may now leave his or her group to visit with the other groups, including the undecided group here in the middle, to recruit new members to join your caucus.”

After several rounds of trying to persuade the undecided, the final vote was taken: 313 for Sanders, 250 for Clinton.

The outcome was the same, although the numbers were closer, in North Platte’s Lincoln County caucus. There, Sanders got support from 201 caucus-goers, compared to 182 for Clinton. After chairing the caucus Saturday afternoon, Lincoln County Democratic Chairman Terry Sigler, who refrained from taking sides, was getting ready go to a celebration with 30 Sanders supporters.

“Bernie Sanders has energized 30 extra people for us. So I’m just ecstatic. I don’t want to do this for the rest of my life. These kids gotta step up,” Sigler said. “There’s 30 Bernie supporters and we’re going to go over and have a coke together.”

Several major news organizations declared Sanders the winner shortly after the first results released showed him with a 10 percentage point lead. With 99 percent of caucus sites counted, Sanders led, 57 percent to 43 percent.

Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Vince Powers said he was happy with the caucus process, and thought voters were, too. “People really enjoy democracy. And people really enjoyed looking around and seeing other Democrats. Because we all know that we’re picking the next president,” Powers said.

Whether or not that prediction holds true will be decided by voters in November.

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