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WA Voters Pick Sanders, in Caucus and with Their Wallets

Sen. Bernie Sanders won big in Democratic caucuses in Washington, Alaska and Hawaii, but still trails Hillary Clinton in the overall delegate count. (Tiffany von Amim/Wikimedia Commons)
Sen. Bernie Sanders won big in Democratic caucuses in Washington, Alaska and Hawaii, but still trails Hillary Clinton in the overall delegate count. (Tiffany von Amim/Wikimedia Commons)
March 28, 2016

SEATTLE - Senator Bernie Sanders captured 72 percent of the vote in Washington's Democratic Caucus on Saturday, earning him a majority of the state's 101 delegates.

Before the caucus, Sanders also was able to raise more money from Evergreen State voters than Hillary Clinton.

Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for the watchdog group Public Citizen, says Sanders' model of soliciting small donations from a wide donor base equips him with a more sustainable campaign than Clinton, who has relied on donors giving one-time, maximum donations.

"She's got to find new people to give her money," says Holman. "That means she ends up spending more time and working harder at fund-raising than Bernie Sanders."

Through February, Sanders raised about $2.6 million in Washington, compared to Clinton's $2 million. Sanders is still $80 million behind his rival overall according to "OpenSecrets," a campaign finance research group.

OpenSecrets also reports two-thirds of Sanders' contributions were donations of $200 or less, compared to only 18 percent of Clinton's.

Viveca Novak, editorial director of OpenSecrets.org says this model is unusual in the era of super PACs and other outside spending groups, and may not be easy for future candidates to replicate.

"It's hard to imagine, as we move along, a candidate winning the election," she says. "And winning even the nomination of a major party without having one of these outside spending groups behind them."

Novak says a self-funded candidate could be a caveat to her prediction.

Ideas for amplifying the role of small donations in elections have been gaining traction across the U.S.

Last year, Seattle passed a measure to allot voters vouchers that can be donated to the candidates of their choice, starting in 2017.

Holman thinks the voucher program is a good way to facilitate small donations and get more people involved in elections.

"When someone chips in $20 to a candidate or to a campaign, they tend to have a stake in that candidate and that campaign," he says.

Sanders also scored big victories in the Alaska and Hawaii caucuses on Saturday.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA