Jack McDermot strolled into Hawaii GOP headquarters Tuesday evening in his “No Communism. No Socialism. No Obama.” T-shirt from 2008.
The retired attorney sat down and took off his black cowboy hat before talking story with reporters about Barry Goldwater and living under a dictatorship in Soviet Russia. Democracy works well in America, he said, and Hawaii’s first GOP presidential caucuses were no exception.
He stopped by Republican HQ on Kapiolani Avenue after casting his ballot for Mitt Romney, who won a convincing victory with 45 percent of the vote. Rick Santorum came second with 25 percent, Ron Paul third at 18 percent and Newt Gingrich last with 11 percent.
The scene at headquarters remained quiet from the time people starting casting ballots at 6 p.m. until the counting began after the polling places closed at 8 p.m. The final results were tallied just after midnight.
At least three sites ran out of ballots, Hawaii GOP Chair David Chang said.
“We didn’t expect this many people,” he said.
UPDATE Party officials were estimating 5,000 voters, he said, and with four precincts to go they had counted more than 8,000. By the end of the night, Republicans said 10,239 voters had cast ballots. The actual candidate totals added up to 9,365. A party spokesman said provisional ballots were not counted in the candidate totals but were included in the total turnout number.
Chang said headquarters was slow to report the votes due to unexpectedly long lines at some polling places, such as Laie and Makiki, and because everything was being filtered through one person, Andrew Walden, the HRP presidential caucus chair.
Only a few Republican officer-holders, including state Rep. Gene Ward, stopped by GOP headquarters. The number of people who filled headquarters peaked at roughly 25, including volunteers, party officials and campaign workers.
Miriam Hellreich, Republican National Committeewoman; Nacia Lee, HRP executive director; Trent Johnson, HRP communications director; and Helene Webster, HRP deputy treasurer, were among the staples.
Webster has volunteered the past eight years for the state GOP. When asked what she thought of this historic caucus night, she said, “It’s like a volcano erupting.”
The past several years have been “really mellow,” Webster said, adding that this year’s activity in the Republican Party is something she has never seen before.
Keith Rollman, an observer for Paul, said the line at the McKinley site was backed up more than 100 when he left.
“You could barely stuff the ballot in the box,” he said.
Tim Lussier, a 25-year-old Waikiki resident, called the state’s first caucus effort “great.”
The Hawaii Pacific University student body president fundraised his way to New Hampshire to help the Romney campaign earlier this year.
Ted Liu, Republican National Committeeman, alleviated the concerns of a couple caucus-goers who were worried about the counting process and people being turned away at a few precincts after 8 p.m. although they were in line before closing time.
Indy Schneider, a 63-year-old Waikiki resident, said the logistics at his polling place in Waianae could have been better in terms of managing crowd flow but overall he thought the caucuses went well.
“It was honest people trying to do the best they could,” he said.
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