Ted Cruz wins Summit County as Republicans draw big crowds
March 23, 2016
Republicans gathered at Park City High School on Tuesday night to cast ballots in the highly charged contest for the party’s presidential nomination, turning out in large numbers as people descended on the caucus site to cast a ballot for one of the White House contenders.
The Associated Press reported Ted Cruz won the balloting in Summit County with 672 votes, or 43.6 percent. Donald Trump finished in second place with 29.8 percent, or 459 votes, and John Kasich was the third-place finisher with 26.7 percent, or 411 votes, according to the Associated Press. Nearly 98 percent of the votes had been counted. The Summit County Republican Party was not able to immediately confirm the results.
The scene at the high school seemed celebratory at many points as Republicans appeared proud to be casting a ballot with the contest still undecided, a contrast to past presidential-election years when the nominee had essentially already been selected through earlier primaries and caucuses by the time Utahns voted.
But there were also displeasure at one point as caucus-goers were told the presidential balloting had closed prior to them casting a vote. They angrily confronted Summit County’s Republican chairman, Tal Adair, in a back-and-forth that ended without them being allowed to vote.
Others at the caucus site in Park City were jovial. The number of Republican ballots cast on Tuesday was not immediately available. Adair said he was "absolutely" pleased with the turnout. The Park City caucus site was one of three in Summit County.
"We’re getting a lot of people changing affiliation," Adair said, explaining that by doing so someone was allowed to cast a ballot in the GOP caucus.
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People at the Park City caucus offered a wide range of opinions about the Republican field as they prepared to vote. They checked in at tables, voted and continued to mill about afterward talking politics.
Richard Winkler, an Old Town resident, said he intended to vote for Cruz, the Texas senator. He said Cruz’s desire to limit the federal government is attractive. It was the first caucus he has attended, Winkler said.
"Hopefully I can have a little influence . . . There’s still a chance Cruz can beat him," Winkler said, referring to Trump.
Another Cruz supporter, Pinebrook resident Scott Fortney, said he has the best chance of besting Trump for the nomination. He said Trump appears to be pursuing the White House for egotistical reasons. Fortney acknowledged he is "not a huge fan" of Cruz, though.
"It’s my best option available," he said.
Camille Evans, who lives in Highland Estates, cast a ballot for Trump, saying the businessman is campaigning "because he cares about the country."
"He puts these radical ideas out there with the intent to at least get change rolling," Evans said.
She said, as an example, Trump frequently talks about immigration issues. Evans, though, said she does not support the candidate’s desire to build a wall along the border with Mexico to curb illegal immigration.
A figure in national-level Republican circles, Park Meadows resident Bruce Hough, voted in the caucus at Park City High School. Hough is a Republican National Committeeman and will be a delegate to the party’s national convention. His convention vote on the first round of balloting is bound by the results of the statewide caucus. Hough declined to identify which candidate received his vote on Tuesday.
He said every delegate is important in such a close contest. Hough said Republicans in Utah represent the best principles and ideas of the party. He said there were many first-time Republican caucus-goers at the Park City gathering.
"We mattered. Utah mattered," Hough said.
Voters turned away
The Summit County Republicans turned away an unknown number of voters who wanted to cast a ballot in the contest for the presidential nomination, leading to tense moments between the chairman of the Summit County party and some of the people denied the chance to vote.
Approximately 15 people surrounded Adair at one point peppering him with questions about the caucus mechanics and the time of the balloting. They were visibly displeased with the situation and some of the questions were asked in a sharp tone.
Adair told the group at 8:35 p.m. he would call the state party for guidance. The issue by then centered on a process known as credentialing, which is when the party checks whether someone is a registered Republican or registers them as a party member at the caucus site.
Adair said the state party told him once the credentialing process had been closed, which it had been at that point, it could not be reopened.
Only registered Republicans were allowed to participate in the presidential caucus. Someone could register as a GOP member at the caucus site, however.
Braden Bell, who lives in Old Town, was one of the caucus-goers denied a chance to vote in the presidential contest. He said a Summit County official told him earlier in the day he could cast a ballot until 9 p.m.
"Is this freedom? I can’t even vote," Bell said, adding, "You make the effort to vote. What do you get?"
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