Feb 23, 2012 - By Martin Reed Staff WriterFremont County Republicans convening this week picked presidential hopeful Rick Santorum in the first straw poll held by the state party.
The former U.S. senator for Pennsylvania came out on top with 55 votes at the four caucuses held Tuesday in Lander and Jeffrey City, and Wednesday in Riverton and Dubois.
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney came in second with 46 votes, while U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas inched out former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich by a single vote with 25 received.
Among all four caucuses, 150 Republicans gathered to participate in the straw poll. They also started creating their party platforms and resolutions and picking delegates in preparation for the March 10 county convention.
Speaking Thursday by telephone, Fremont County GOP chairman John Birbari of Lander said the participation was "the best turnout we've had in years for these. We saw lots of new faces, which was exciting."
With 10 or so counties still waiting to have their caucuses in the state, Fremont County's turnout was second only to the 160 participants in Laramie County, Birbari said.
At Wednesday night's caucus at Riverton City Hall, 73 people packed into the council chambers to talk politics and their vision of a better direction for the country.
Some of those attending, including Cheryl Reuber of Pavillion, were first-timers to the process.
Reuber attended with her husband, Roy, to become more politically active.
"Learning about it, for one," she said about why she came to the caucus. "And just trying to get Obama out of office. ... We've really got to make a big difference."
She picked Santorum in the straw poll because he has "real Christian values. I really believe he could do it and put us back into some moral society."
Jim Tate of Riverton said the presidential leadership needs to change.
"I feel our country is not going in the right direction and I need to put my input in on how I feel," he said.
The newcomer to the caucus process said numerous issues are adversely affecting the country's future.
"I think we're in a more urgent situation with regards to our escalating national debt, with regards to their jeopardizing the financial soundness of Social Security, with regards to the encroachments on our religious liberties," he said.
"I picked Mitt Romney -- even though I like Rick Santorum -- because I think he would be the most successful at beating President Obama," Tate said.
Jacqualine Coates and Robert Andrews, both of Riverton, also attended for the first time. Both are fans of Gingrich.
"He's got the most experience in government," Andrews said.
"I don't have that much against the others, but experience is a good thing," Coates added.
Nancy Eustice of Riverton also wants to see Gingrich as the Republican Party presidential nominee. Why?
"Because I think he would not be nice. I think he would tear up Obama" in a debate, Eustice said.
Other caucuses in the county had 14 participants in Dubois, 55 in Lander and eight in Jeffrey City.
Doug and Cindy Thompson held the Jeffrey City caucus at their home.
"We had eight people in attendance and half of those were brand new people to the precinct process," Doug Thompson said Wednesday.
Thompson said he hopes more people become politically active this year.
"The thing I notice right for this year is the troubles are as severe and the consequences as severe as ever, but there are a lot of people that have kind of given up. They don't feel like they can influence the national arena anymore," he said.
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