Sen. Ted Cruz won the Kansas and Riley County Republican caucuses Saturday as people clad in the green of Fake Patty’s Day attire blended with the Republican red.
Cruz’s 624 votes were 37 percent of the 1,691 votes cast in the caucus. Ohio Gov. John Kasich was second at 352 votes and 21 percent, and Sen. Marco Rubio’s 350 also took 21 percent. Businessman Donald Trump came in fourth at 338 votes and 20 percent, according to Eileen King, chairwoman of the Riley County Republican Party.
There were 27 votes for other candidates and 363 provisional ballots. King said most of those provisional ballots were cast by college students who were registered in other Kansas counties, and the state will send the ballots to the appropriate county.
The turnout was more than double the 2012 turnout: 1,691 votes compared to 717, King said. She credited this to the close nature of the race.
“There’s still four really viable candidates in there,” King said. “There is just so much interest this year and I think we’re seeing that nationwide … a lot of interest from Republicans because it isn’t already decided. It’s not down to one candidate like it has been in other years.”
The caucus opened with the Boy Scout color guard presenting the American and Kansas flags in the Manhattan High School gymnasium, followed by an invocation and the singing of the national anthem.
Representatives of Cruz, Rubio and Trump spoke to the crowd on the merits of the candidates. One voter, Barry Flinchbaugh, professor of agricultural economics, volunteered to speak for Kasich.
Flinchbaugh drew applause by attacking President Barack Obama, comparing his qualifications with Kasich’s.
“There’s only one candidate in this race that has a long, in-depth resume for President of the United States,” Flinchbaugh said. “That’s not a job for amateurs. We’ve had seven years of amateurs.”
Flinchbaugh’s follow-up attack on the other candidates also drew applause from the crowd.
“I watched the debate that other night and frankly I was embarrassed,” he said. “There was one adult on the stage. Three kids needed spanked.”
The speech for Trump by Roger Seymour, Riley County resident, elicited scattered applause, laughter and boos from the crowd in an attack on Cruz and Rubio.
“Mr. Trump is the only constitutionally eligible candidate who can make America great again,” Seymour said.
Seymour said while Trump may not be politically correct, he speaks what is on people’s minds. He said this helps bring more people into the party, which would help in a general election.
Trump’s business background and experience working with politicians also makes him a more desirable candidate, Seymour said.
Kerrick Kuder, senior in political science and member of the College Republicans, said he supported Cruz because of his conservative values and opposition to amnesty for people living in the country without legal permission and Obama’s use of executive orders.
“If you’re looking for an alternative conservative to the flamboyant Trump, Ted Cruz is the guy,” Kuder said.
Kuder said “talk is cheap” on the campaign trail and voters should be concerned about Rubio’s participation in the “Gang of Eight” amnesty bill.
Alec Gartner, senior in mass communications, Thomas Kramer, senior in electrical engineering, and Michael Banowetz, senior in electrical engineering, said that this was their first caucus.
Banowetz said he was undecided on who he would vote for but was leaning toward Rubio. He said there was not any one issue that was most important when choosing a candidate.
“It’s more their viewpoints, how they align with mine,” Banowetz said. “What I deem more important, they deem a little more important.”
Gartner said he was voting for Rubio because “he’s the most electable in a general election.”
“He’s not insane like Trump,” Gartner said.
Kramer also said he voted for Rubio. Gartner and Kramer said Rubio’s strength as a candidate is that he is young, Hispanic, likable and compromising.
“You have to be able to work with the other side,” Gartner said. “I mean, I don’t like compromise, but you have to if you’re the president.”
Gartner said he would never vote for Trump, solely based on his statements on banning Muslims from the country.
“I’m a human being,” Gartner said. “We shouldn’t base letting people in here on religion.”
If Trump were the Republican nominee, Gartner said he would consider voting for a Democrat or a third party candidate.
Kramer said this year’s election is both strange and entertaining.
“It almost seems like you’re watching a tournament of sorts where the candidates are getting whittled down and away,” Kramer said. “It has definitely been interesting to follow, but I think now, when it comes to voting, it’s now, ‘Who do I actually want to be president?’ It’s taking more of a serious turn.”
Flinchbaugh said he has followed presidential elections since 1948, when he was six years old. He said what makes this year’s election stand out is that it makes him embarrassed by candidates from both parties.
“That debate the other night, I have never seen it worse,” Flinchbaugh said. “It wasn’t substance of any kind. The media people baited (Kasich) several times, and he said, ‘I’m not getting in the sandbox with them.’ And he stayed out of it, and he clearly was the only adult up there.”
Not only was the debate lacking in substance, but it also took a turn for the inappropriate, Flinchbaugh said.
“I’ve never seen it that bad all those years,” Flinchbaugh said. “It’s kind of hard to clean this up. I’m 74 years old. I thought I had seen everything, politically. And they had a debate about the size of their penis. My wife didn’t watch it, I said (to her), ‘So what we’re going to do in the future is just measure them and we’re ready to go.’ How damn stupid. That’s how you talk in a bar, not in a presidential debate.”
Kramer said he had already begun participating in Fake Patty’s Day before caucusing.
“I’m doing my civic duty,” Kramer said. “I got to do both. You don’t not give someone Christmas gifts on Christmas even if you have to vote on Christmas. You do vote.”
Flinchbaugh said jobs and the economy as a whole are the most important issues of this election. He said middle-class salaries are not high enough.
“We’re not paying enough attention to young people and the Millennial generation, and many of them don’t have jobs, and they’re living in their parents’ basements and they got $100,000 in student loan debt,” Flinchbaugh said.