With 119 registered voters in attendance, the Callaway County Republican Central Committee had a far greater turnout than ever before for the Republican Caucus Saturday morning.
"I think four years ago we had maybe a quarter of the people we have today, so this is just amazing," said Travis Fitzwater, secretary of the CCRCC, who was elected chairperson of the caucus.
Callaway County Republican Central Committee Chairperson Dean Powell said the 2008 caucus drew approximately 30-40 people, which "was the highest we had ever had before."
"It's growing. More people are getting involved because they don't like what's going on in the country," said Powell, of New Bloomfield. "There were more Republican voters in the last Callaway election than Democrats for the first time."
Longtime committee member Karey Wilkinson of Holts Summit gave a similar explanation for the large crowd gathered in the community room of the Callaway Electric Cooperative.
"This is the biggest turnout I've ever seen," Wilkinson said. "As citizens, we're frustrated, and that frustration doesn't go toward any one party, it goes to Washington in general. The Republican party's not getting business done, and neither is the other party."
The primary purpose of Saturday's caucus was to elect 17 delegates and 17 alternates to represent Callaway Republicans at the Third Congressional District Convention on April 21 in Hermann as well as 17 delegates and 17 alternates to represent Callaway Republicans at the State Convention on June 2 in Springfield. The group also was slated to consider amendments to the state party platform.
Participants in the caucus had to be Callaway County residents, registered voters and had to declare themselves Republican in order to vote.
After reviewing the rules and procedures, the floor was opened up to nominations for the delegates, with those doing the nominating each getting time to explain why they were throwing their support behind their particular candidate. Those nominated to serve as delegates each then had an opportunity to briefly plead their case, many citing having conservative fiscal and social values and a firm belief in upholding the Constitution as well as restoring personal liberties they said they felt have been stripped away in recent years.
With such a large turnout, there were 55 nominees to serve as delegates for the Congressional District Convention and 58 for the State Convention - more than had ever previously attended the event, which is held every four years.
Patti Weaver of Fulton said it was her children and grandchildren who motivated her to attend her first caucus.
"I have seven children - two of them are in the military - and this country is at a really critical point," Weaver said, noting she will be taking her 15-year-old son to Washington D.C. next week for the Time to Stand rally. "(In the future) I want to be able to look into their eyes and tell them I did everything I could to get it back to like it was in the beginning."
Marla Mason of Williamsburg said she came to the caucus Saturday because, "I got a call from a friend who said something exciting was going on and I should come."
"Our nation's not going a great way, and I want to get a leader elected who can beat Obama," Mason said.
Another first-time caucus attendee, James Blankenship of Fulton, said he decided to participate for some of those same reasons listed by Weaver and Mason.
"I'm sick of politicians saying one thing and doing another, and I wanted to have an impact this go around, and I thought going to the caucus does that more than casting a straw vote," Blankenship said. "I'm also here because this time around there's a candidate I feel passionate about."
Wilkinson, who said he has been involved with the Callaway Republicans for 18 years, said he continues to attend because, "if you're not part of the process and exercising your right to vote, you can't complain."