- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 15, 2004

After winning the nonbinding D.C. primary in January, Howard Dean finished third in yesterday’s Democratic caucus, clearing the way for front-runner John Kerry to complete a Valentine’s Day sweep here and in Nevada.

Mr. Kerry garnered almost half of the D.C. votes while adding nine delegates to his already sizable lead. He didn’t participate in the Jan. 13 primary, which allowed Mr. Dean to notch a symbolic victory, his only one in the campaign to date.

The Massachusetts senator received 4,278 votes (47 percent), followed by the Rev. Al Sharpton, who garnered 1,824 votes (20 percent) and Mr. Dean with 1,596 votes (17 percent). None of the other candidates received enough votes to acquire delegates.

Mr. Kerry also won the Nevada caucuses — not surprising since he was the only candidate to campaign there. He garnered 63 percent of the vote, with Mr. Dean finishing a distant second place with 17 percent and Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina in third at 10 percent.

Voters in the District said yesterday they would have voted for Mr. Kerry in last month’s contest had he been on the ballot. Some said they wrote in his name on the primary ballot.

“We wrote Kerry’s name in for the primary and voted for him today,” said Audrey and Robert Nevitt, at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, the polling site for Ward 6. Write-in votes on the primary ballot were not counted last month, but were calculated toward the turnout totals.

There were 10 delegates up for grabs to be distributed proportionately to the candidates based on the outcome. The candidates needed at least 15 percent of the vote to receive one delegate. Six additional delegates are allocated by the D.C. Democratic State Committee for a total of 16.

Several residents who said they voted for Mr. Dean, a former Vermont governor, in the primary had a change of heart at the polls yesterday.

“I voted for Kerry today, but I voted for Dean in the primary,” said Ray Williams, the AARP president for Ward 6, adding that there was no question in his mind now that Mr. Kerry is the better candidate.

Southeast resident Loretta Clarke did the same.

“I couldn’t vote for Kerry in the primary, so I voted for Dean, but I did vote for Kerry today,” she said.

Mrs. Clarke was one of a slew of residents confused by the new process and not sure exactly what they were voting for.

“I was confused about what we were voting for in this caucus — the voting went smoothly because I participated in the primary and had seen the ballot — but I think it worked out fine,” she said.

More than 16 percent of D.C. registered voters participated in the contest — double the average for the past two presidential primaries.

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C. Democrat, acknowledged the awkwardness of the caucus and explained the purpose for residents at the polls.

“This was a very complicated vote, but it was worth it, because we represented ourselves well by supporting the primary, which was a protest against our lack of voting rights and today we vote for our presidential nominee,” she said.

Adding to the confusion was the fact that there were five additional names on the caucus ballot that weren’t there in January. Only Mr. Dean, Mr. Sharpton, Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio and former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois participated in that contest.

However, all of the remaining candidates, including Mr. Kerry and Mr. Edwards, as well as race dropouts Mrs. Moseley Braun, Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Wesley Clark of Arkansas were on yesterday’s ballot.

City Democratic leaders moved the primary to January so it could bring attention to the District’s voting-rights situation. However, the Democratic National Committee said the District couldn’t have the first primary in the nation — that is traditionally held by New Hampshire — but would allow for a nonbinding contest to gauge voter preferences. Many of the candidates opted out of that contest because of its lack of significance in the overall delegate outcome.

Despite the confusion, D.C. Democratic Party Chairman A. Scott Bolden said there had been no problems. He said the turnout was steady, if not heavy, yesterday and he expected a large number of votes despite the confusion of the process.

“The District is the most educated and sophisticated electorate in the country by nature of the news here, which is always centered around political events on Capitol Hill,” Mr. Bolden said.

D.C. voters will be asked to step out again on March 6 to vote for their delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Boston in July.

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