Bernie Sanders won the majority of caucus votes in Washoe County in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, but Hillary Clinton eclipsed him statewide by 6 percentage points thanks to her supporters in Las Vegas and the rest of Clark County.
In Washoe County, Sanders won the delegate count by a margin of 54 percent to 46 percent. Clinton, however, won the backing of 55 percent of caucus participants in populous Clark County, propelling her to victory.
Nearly 20,000 registered Democrats turned out for Saturday’s caucus in Washoe County, with participants reporting confusion, long lines, computer problems and lengthy registration times at some precinct locations.
Clinton’s win in Nevada means she will pick up most of the state’s delegates. With 35 at stake, Clinton will gain at least 18. Sanders will pick up at least 14.
Three delegates remain to be allocated, based on votes in the congressional districts.
“Thank you, Nevada, thank you so much!” Clinton told her supporters in a victory speech in Las Vegas. “I am so thrilled and so grateful. Some may have doubted us, but we never doubted each other. This one’s for you.”
Sanders, who called to congratulate Clinton, said he was proud of his campaign, which turned a 25-point polling deficit into a close election.
“I am also proud of the fact that we have brought many working people and young people into the political process and believe that we have the wind at our back as we head toward Super Tuesday,” he said.
After a devastating, double-digit loss to Sanders in New Hampshire, Clinton prevailed in Nevada with the backing of women, union workers, minorities, moderates and voters who are certain she will have a better shot at winning in November, according to entrance polls.
A large majority of blacks supported Clinton, an outcome that bodes well for Clinton in South Carolina on Feb. 27.
Alma Lopez, 45, was among a group of housekeepers from the Bellagio waiting to enter a caucus site at the nearby Caesars Palace hotel. Lopez and her co-workers broke into chants of “Hillary!” as they waited.
“She understands what it means to be a woman, a mother, a human being,” Lopez said.
Marvin Teske, a 53-year-old security guard at a Reno casino, said he worried that Sanders would have trouble beating the Republican nominee in the fall. The Vermont senator largely appeals to white liberals, a relatively narrow swath of the Democratic Party.
“As far as being too far left, I agree with a lot of the stuff he has to say. But the problem I have is that all the stuff he is promising is never going to happen,” Teske said. “I’ve always liked Hillary.”
The 57,000-member Culinary Workers Union didn’t endorse in the election, but it circulated literature ensuring its members knew where and when to caucus and had staff ensure they were able to get to their sites Saturday.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called casino bosses to ensure that workers would get paid time off to caucus. He also reached out to the union to try to encourage the group to push their members to caucus, even without a formal endorsement, according to aides.
The state party’s initial estimates were that 80,000 Democrats caucused Saturday, about 10,000 more than most expected but still well below the nearly 120,000 who showed up in 2008.
Entrance polls of Nevada voters found that a third said the economy was their major concern, while a quarter cited income inequality – the centerpiece of Sanders’ campaign.
Whites were split between the two candidates. Sanders did well with self-identified independents and two-thirds of those participating in a caucus for the first time.