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CALIFORNIA | Democratic Turnout in a GOP Stronghold

By Karl Vick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 6, 2008

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif., Feb. 5 -- The car door opened, and a toy poodle named Dion hopped onto the parking lot outside City Hall.

"Can she vote?" asked her owner, Diana Wise. "She really wants to."

"I don't know," said neighbor Marcy Tiffany, worried that the color of the pooch's jacket signaled a lean to the left. "I think she's pretty pink."

This wealthy peninsula south of Los Angeles has been reliably Republican for as long as anyone here can remember. It is laced with cul de sacs and bathed in ocean light so splendid it might be where Ronald Reagan first glimpsed that shining city on the hill.

But Tuesday was not a normal day here. Turnout was strong -- one poll worker called it the busiest day she's seen in 30 years -- and unusually Democratic. Though registered Republicans outnumbered Democrats 715 to 410 in one precinct here, Democrats had case one more ballot than Republicans by midday.

That may have been because party rules allow independents to vote in the Democratic primary, but not in the Republican contest.

Voting by mail, which California encourages, also muddied the turnout calculations. One precinct here had 230 sealed envelopes. That equaled the number cast in person by 3 p.m. Pacific time.

A few registered Republicans walked out, angry that they could not cross over. "Some were not able to vote today as Democrats, and they got mad and left when they found out," said election clerk Diana Lara.

Republican voters reported that they were not totally at peace with their choices.

"I voted for Romney, and I'm proud I did," said Margaret Cramer, 67. "I fear for his success, but I just feel he is the most qualified in every area."

"McCain," said Bob Frinier, a semi-retired consultant with a Reagan pompadour and buff good health. "But my ultimate vote will depend on who he chooses for running mate, because even though I'm a registered Republican, I want Obama to win."

Victoria Young, 69, took off her sunglasses and winced. "It was very difficult for me to decide," she said. "I just went back and forth constantly." And she got into her car without sharing her choice.

Democratic primary voters were also unsettled.

"I think they're both very good," said Barbara O'Sullivan. "But I worry that Hillary just couldn't leave the problems behind." She marked her ballot for Obama "with a heavy heart."

Lilian Holly, born in Taiwan, cast a ballot for McCain because she feels he would look out for her son at West Point. Narki Tekchandani, an engineer, went with Clinton, while his wife voted for McCain. "We split, but I thought McCain would be good, too. I think she's more like a center Democrat, not too liberal," he said.

Randy Persinger, 54, changed his registration in time. "I think the Republican Party has moved too far to the Republican right," said the aerospace engineer. "It's no longer about business and things that attracted me in the first place. It's become about whether you're gay or not, or for or against abortion. Bush has polarized us.

"I really did it," Persinger said, "because I wanted to vote for Hillary Clinton. I really think she deserves a chance. I don't know how many people would do that here, but I just did."

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