Republican caucus-goers in Nevada make their voices known

AP News
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Posted: Feb 24, 2016 4:08 AM
Republican caucus-goers in Nevada make their voices known

Republican voters in Nevada made their voices known by overwhelmingly supporting billionaire Donald Trump in the GOP's first-in-the-West presidential caucuses ahead of the party's national nominating convention in July.

Eleven names were on the statewide ballot, but Trump easily outdistanced the other candidates still in the race, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

Here are snapshot comments from voters who caucused Tuesday:

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Steve and Irma Eggert cast ballots for Donald Trump at Desert Oasis High School in Las Vegas.

Irma Eggert was born in Mexico and immigrated to the United States.

She said she likes Trump's immigration stance, and voted in memory of her late father, who brought her legally to the U.S.

"I'm here for him, representing him," Eggert said of her father. "He would have loved this, just to know someone's bringing this up."

Irma Eggert, 59, lost her job in defense procurement after the real estate crash, and now earns a third of what she used to working in a casino legal department.

The couple said they're in danger of losing their Las Vegas house, and like Trump's promise to revive the economy.

"America needs to be brought up to a level — we've been downgraded," Irma Eggert said.

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Jim and Sharon Turner were among hundreds of people who lined up before 6 p.m. to cast their ballots in Nevada's Republican presidential caucuses at Reed High School in Sparks.

Both support Marco Rubio, and believe he could defeat Hillary Clinton.

"He's a person who can work with other people," said Sharon Turner, a retired AT&T worker from Sparks.

Jim Turner, a retired U.S. government worker, called Rubio a negotiator.

"Donald Trump could probably do that as well," Turner said. "But I like the way Rubio has run a positive campaign."

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Retired businessman Roy Leuhsenhop is partially blind and had his daughter drop him off on the curb of a high school caucus site in Las Vegas.

He said he came out Tuesday night to vote for someone who could beat Donald Trump.

"He's a good businessman. I think he's a spoiled brat," Leuhsenhop said as he waited in a line that started in the crowded cafeteria of Durango High School, snaked through a quad and ended at the curb.

Leuhsenhop, 92, said he likes Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, partly because he admires the courage of people who left Cuba and came to the U.S. against long odds.

"I have a fondness for Cubans," he said. "Only certain people have the guts to do it."

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Tiffany Jones, 35, said she's been supporting Marco Rubio ever since she took a Facebook quiz to find her right candidate several months ago, and scored a 92 percent match with the Florida senator.

"I like his vision," Jones said as her 3-year-old daughter, Jovi, clung to her at Desert Oasis High School in Las Vegas.

"The biggest appeal is his building a foundation for family."

Jones owns a bakery in Las Vegas. She said she knew her favorite was an underdog in Nevada.

"I'm trying to keep my hope and faith in humanity," she quipped. "I just hope that people are level-headed."

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Retired government worker and New York City transplant Carol Allen, 79, and her husband were first in line at Palo Verde High School in Las Vegas.

Alllen said she decided on Marco Rubio, but she was more vocal about defeating Donald Trump.

"I don't want Trump," she said. "He's an inexperienced clown."

She also said Rubio had a good grasp on foreign policy and economy, although his position on immigration was less clear to her. The lifelong Republican said she voted for Mitt Romney in 2012.

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Tracy Brigida used to be a Scott Walker backer.

But after the Wisconsin governor dropped out last fall, and Brigida's husband got laid off from his mining job, Brigida shifted her support.

She cast her ballot on Tuesday for Donald Trump.

"He's gotten laid off for the second time in three years," Brigida said as she waited in line with her husband, Michael, and their two children at Desert Oasis High School in Las Vegas.

"I want a businessman to run the biggest business in the world."

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Jeremy Haight drove straight from his marketing job to caucus for Marco Rubio.

"I kind of live for this," said the 23-year-old self-described political junkie, who was a Republican political staffer in the heavily Democratic state of Hawaii before moving to Las Vegas.

Haight said he was troubled to see restaurants still open, because Americans fought for the right to vote and those workers wouldn't get a say in the caucus because they had to work.

Still, he was enthusiastic about his first caucus at Durango High School in Las Vegas, and about Rubio.

"He's the most level-headed. He hasn't said anything stupid or crazy or hasn't pissed too many people off," Haight said, "which is really what I think the country needs."

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Megan Ortega balanced her 4-year-old daughter on her hip and tried to keep her 5-year-old son close while she waited in line at a caucus site in Las Vegas.

The 29-year-old military wife dressed up before casting her ballot. She said she was headed to a Ted Cruz victory party after the Tuesday caucus.

"He's consistent, he's bold and he's a class act," she said, struggling to hold her daughter as she also signed a petition for a ballot measure to change Nevada's rooftop solar rates.

Ortega volunteered for Cruz's campaign and liked that the Texas senator led the charge for a government shutdown in 2013.

"Love it. Love it," Ortega said. "What's the point of having a government if all they're going to do is spend money? Out of control. Love it."

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Former Nevada state Sen. Maurice Washington, a Republican who used to represent the district in Sparks, shook hands with Ted Cruz and had his photo taken with the candidate at Reed High School.

He said he hadn't made up his mind which candidate to choose.

"There are three good candidates," Washington said. "Any one of them has to be better than Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton."

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Lindsey Berg, 25, came to the caucus at Palo Verde High School with her two children — a 2-year-old on her hip and a 1-year-old in a stroller.

She said she's most concerned about the economy and national budget, and what it means for future generations.

"I don't want them to pay off all our debt. It's getting ridiculous," the stay-at-home mom said of the budget deficit.

She also said she was caucusing for the first time, to defeat Donald Trump.

"Donald Trump has to be stopped," she said.

She said she was leaning toward John Kasich because of his more moderate record, but wasn't convinced he could win the nomination.

She voted for Mitt Romney in the 2012 election and considers herself a moderate.

"I'd like us to stop fighting wars, but that's not very Republican," she said with a laugh.

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Greg Gerhardt of Sparks, owner of a construction company with about 30 employees, said he's backing Ted Cruz

"He's the best candidate we have that respects the U.S. Constitution. He will make the right choice for the next Supreme Court justice. I believe he will keep America safe, secure the borders and get the economy back on track," Gerhardt said.

His wife, Sharla Gerhardt, liked Carly Fiorina and Jeb Bush and others, but settled on Cruz too.

"I liked the fact Trump stirred things up, but I don't trust him," she said.

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Associated Press writers Nicholas Riccardi, Sally Ho and Michelle Rindels in Las Vegas, and Scott Sonner in Sparks, Nevada, contributed to this report.