Trump is the overwhelming favorite of Letcher County Republicans to become the next president of the United States.
Trump racked up 410 votes in Letcher County’s Republican Presidential Caucus Saturday, easily outdistancing Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who collected 141 votes, and John Kasich, who was the choice of 83 Letcher voters. Florida Senator Marco Rubio finished a distant fourth, drawing the support of only 66 voters.
The vote totals show that Trump was the choice of 57.42 of the Republican voters who “caucused” Saturday at the Letcher County Courthouse in Whitesburg. Cruz drew support from 19.75 of the Republicans, while Kasich got 11.76 percent of the vote. Rubio drew support from only 9.24 percent of the GOP voters who cast their ballots.
The turnout by Republican voters in Letcher County was much lower than hoped for as only about 18 percent of the county’s 3,978 registered Republicans showed up at the caucus.
Trump also won in neighboring Harlan County, where he collected 41.27 percent of the vote compared to 31.88 for Cruz, 21.62 percent for Rubio, and 0.87 percent for Kasich. The total votes cast in Harlan County were 189 for Trump, 146 for Cruz, 99 for Rubio, and 4 for Kasich.
At 8:25 p.m. on Saturday, Trump won 22 of Kentucky’s 120 counties, while Cruz carried only five. Trump’s 36.67 percent margin in Letcher County was topped only by Magoffin County’s 38.34 percent margin. In Clay County, Trump defeated Cruz by 34.70 percent.
Trump was leading by smaller margins elsewhere in eastern Kentucky coalfields. Cruz won in Lexington, Kentucky’s second largest city, while Trump was leading in Louisville with some caucus location still not reporting.
This is Kentucky’s first presidential caucus since 1984. Party leaders opted for a caucus this year to benefit Rand Paul, the state’s junior U.S. Senator who ended his presidential campaign last month. Paul donated $250,000 to cover the party’s expenses for holding the caucus.
This is Kentucky’s first presidential caucus since 1984. Back then, the caucus was so poorly received party leaders reverted back to the traditional primary election in 1988. This year, thing seemed to run smoothly at the Knicely Conference Center on the campus of Western Kentucky University, where the line to vote stretched the length of the building and out into the parking lot. Similar lines were reported across the state, including at Seneca High School, where Kentucky’s Republican governor voted just after the caucus opened.
“Have you ever seen this kind of enthusiasm for a primary in the state of Kentucky?” Gov. Matt Bevin said. “We never have.”
But the long lines in many cases were a result of fewer places to vote. Warren County, which normally has 88 precincts on Election Day, had just one on Saturday. And Louisville, normally with 600 precincts, had eight. Voters also had a six-hour window to cast their ballots, as opposed to a 12 hour window in a traditional election.
Richard Bidwell was aggravated when he arrived at Oldham County High School on Saturday afternoon to vote. He went first to his normal precinct and found it closed. He’d received nothing in the mail to direct him elsewhere. So after some frantic searching, he made his way to the correct caucus location.
“I think we’ve got our former presidential candidate and Senator Rand Paul to thank for this chaos,” he grumbled.
Still, voters in Warren County seemed excited to cast their ballots earlier than usual in a presidential contest that has dominated the national news for more than a year. Barbara Eljizi, a 68-year-old retired Marine, said she voted for the person who shares her attitude: Donald Trump.
“I think as president, the world would be afraid of us. They’re not afraid of us now,” she said.
Bowling Green bus driver Steve Eaton also wanted to buck the establishment, but with a different candidate. The 57-year-old said he voted for Cruz because “of all the work he’s already done to fight the establishment in Washington.”
And Wilton Pace, a retired postal service worker, said he voted for Cruz because he trusts him.
“He’ll do what he says he will do. You can depend on him,” Pace said.
Compiled from Mountain Eagle and Associated Press reports.