Wins for Sanders and Cruz after Large Turnout at Utah Caucuses

(KCPW News) Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Texas Senator Ted Cruz were the big winners of Utah’s presidential caucuses on Tuesday evening, as the state bucked the Republican and Democratic frontrunners in the race for the White House. [Audio after break]

Some voters waited up to several hours to cast a vote for their preferred candidate in the party primaries, which saw unprecedented participation.

At Salt Lake City’s Ensign Elementary school, one of the caucus sites for Utah Democrats, a long line snaked several blocks. Ray Wilmot, a 30-year-resident of Salt Lake’s Avenues neighborhood said he’d never seen a turnout like it.

“We used to have caucuses in our living room and if we had 10 people it was a good night,” he said. “I can’t believe this!”

The line at Ensign Elementary - one of the Democratic caucus locations in Salt Lake.

The line at Ensign Elementary – one of the Democratic caucus locations in Salt Lake.

Salt Lake City resident Jack Waters attributed the large caucus turnout to strong organization in Utah by Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, who he said had motivated a large number of younger voters.

“[Sanders] knows that the majority of us in line probably have student loans; we don’t have jobs lined up for us after college like our parents did – and it resonates with us and we want to see real change,” Waters said.

Avenues resident Hillary Carrier said that another reason for the high caucus turnout was that this was the first time in decades that the vote in Utah would make a difference: during most presidential cycles both major parties have decided on a candidate for the general election by the time Utah holds its contest to award delegates.

At a Republican caucus at Bryant Middle school in Salt Lake City, Chris, who said he’d rather not give his full name, said he was probably going to vote for Ohio Governor John Kasich.

“It’s mostly an anti-Trump vote,” he said referring to GOP frontrunner Donald Trump.

However he ended up voting, Chris was probably among the majority of Utah Republicans who voted for someone other than the billionaire hotel magnate. The Utah Republican Party reports that Texas Senator Ted Cruz holds a nearly 70% lead and will likely take home all 40 Utah Republican Party delegates.

On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders who made two visits to the state in recent days won a sizeable victory in Utah over Hillary Clinton. With votes still being counted, Sanders was holding a nearly 80% lead in the proportional Utah Democratic caucus. Sanders also won in the democratic caucus in neighboring Idaho.

And while both Clinton and Trump added to their delegate advantage with wins in Arizona, in Utah the party frontrunners were not the favored choice of most casting ballots on Tuesday night.

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