Notes from the revolution

Larry Wilson of Reno, longtime Democrat, union activist and Kerry supporter, applauds a speech at the 2004 Democratic presidential caucus.

Larry Wilson of Reno, longtime Democrat, union activist and Kerry supporter, applauds a speech at the 2004 Democratic presidential caucus.

Photo By Deidre Pike

Even 45 minutes before the Democratic Party caucus begins Saturday, the parking lot of Wooster High is nearly full. I park near a car with the bumper sticker: “I lost my job to an underpaid foreign worker and now neither of us can afford the company product.”

On my way to the door, a campaign worker offers me a flier touting Dennis Kucinich. Another gives me a John Kerry sticker. If candidates were chosen based on the number of signs up at the event, Kucinich would win in Washoe County.

Inside the high school, long lines form at registration tables. The gym, where Democrats are meeting by precinct, fills to capacity.

Larry Wilson, of Reno, a longtime Democrat and labor activist, sits near a sign for Precinct 225. He registered for the caucus online, he says, and that made the process much easier.

“I walked in, and they had a packet ready for me,” he says.

Wilson wears an olive jacket plastered with stickers for Harry Reid and John Kerry. Wilson’s a Kerry supporter, he says, because the Massachusetts senator has pledged to stop the exportation of U.S. jobs to foreign countries.

“He’s a friend of the working person,” Wilson says, adding that Kerry’s military background seals the deal.

“If he were to take us to war, it would be for a good reason, not like we have today,” Wilson assures me.

Wilson’s interrupted by Nevada Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, who gives us stickers. Leslie seems exhilarated by the crowd.

“I hear people saying, ‘Where have all these Democrats been? I’m not the only one!’ I’m the most uplifted I’ve been in six years,” Leslie says. “Everyone seems unified behind getting Bush out.”

Like all state Assembly members, Leslie will be running for office again this year. Wilson adds Leslie’s sticker to his jacket.

The cafeteria table is littered with campaign material.

“What’s in here?” Wilson asks me, holding up a stapled lunch bag.

Inside are Dean fliers and a card with a Nestle’s $100 Grand candy bar stapled to it. The card says: “The value of the Bush tax cut: George Bush’s wealthy friends got more than $100 grand. Average American families got less than … [a small chocolate candy bar].”

Wilson’s precinct is in the Double Diamond Ranch locale, an area that must be rich in Republicans, apathetics or noncommittal Democrats. For a time, Wilson is the lone representative of this precinct.

At nearby Precinct 224, longtime Democrat Chuck Ulm, 61, is joined by several, including Robert Dorsey, 30, who’s new to both the party and to Nevada’s caucus system.

Dorsey came to Nevada from Wisconsin and became a registered Democrat when he learned how Nevada election law differed from the primary system in the land of cheeseheads. Dorsey had been non-partisan until deciding to throw in his hat for Dean.

“Dean is one of the few governors who’ve been able to balance the budget and maintain a surplus,” Dorsey says. “His state’s not hurting, and he’s dealt with the issues.”

The event officially begins, and Sen. Reid walks on the stage to the riffs of Orleans’ “Still the One.” Many stand and applaud. Reid’s running for re-election this year, too.

A couple of Kucinich supporters in Precinct 402—where Oddie Boulevard meets Sutro—are bugged that Reid gives glowing recommendations for three candidates but fails to mention Kucinich.

“If everybody who says they like Dennis’ ideas voted for him, he’d win,” says Steven Gifford, who’s 44 and co-owns a home-based business with his wife, Lauren. “Everyone says they like his ideas, but he ‘can’t win.’ ”

Gifford plans to plug Kucinich at the county convention in March. Of the seven people who caucus in his precinct, three vote for Kucinich, two for Kerry and one for Dean. One remains undecided.

At the end of the day, more than 1,500 Democrats—including a couple hundred new Democrats who registered to vote at the event—cast straw poll ballots in Washoe County. More than half the vote went to Kerry, about a quarter to Dean, 12 percent for Edwards and 10 percent for Kucinich.

I drove away from Wooster behind a car with Dean stickers and another bumper sticker with the slogan: “No one died when Clinton lied.”