Thousands filtered into the Taco Bell Arena Tuesday night to take part in the first-of-its-kind Ada County Republican Caucus. But Luke Roberts and his wife weren't among the more than 9,000 that got inside.
“We’re kind of bummed. We wanted to come down and see what this was all about,” said Roberts. “We went and saw a movie. It was Hugo, over at the dollar theater. I guess we were too late.”
Security guards turned away prospective GOP voters just after 7 p.m., dragging metal barriers in front of the doors. One man angrily yelled at the security officials, asking if it was the doing of “the Obama administration.”
At the door, volunteer Julisse Jantzen was frantically issuing arm bands to distinguish seatings for the event’s attendees. At folding tables, she issued different color arm bands as the night waned, shuffling folks from station to station as the volunteers struggled to keep up with demand. Each person who walked through the door, if they weren’t registered as a Republican, had to fill out a form with borrowed pens at the entrance.
“It’s been fun. It’s as crazy as I expected,” said Jantzen. “I think it’s exciting. I’ll be here all night. I am hungry. I’ll have to get something to eat at some point. We’ve been through so many arm bands. It’s going to be crazy when we run out of these.”
For Jantzen, the night was a family affair.
“At least I got a day off school,” said her enthusiastic daughter, also volunteering for the party.
In the seats, settling in for a long night just after 4 p.m. when the doors opened, the Knudsen family took their seats, pulling down their folding chairs to sit just off the court floor. They had parked in the university’s handicap spots, helping shuffle in an older family member just to vote for their presidential preference. Each of them had a Romney sticker displayed proudly on their chests.
“Our main goal is to beat Obama,” said Stacey Knudsen from Eagle, Idaho.
She’s a mother in her 40s, her teenaged son and father sat beside her elderly father-in-law.
“I ultimately decided to support Mitt Romney. I think overall he has a good mind and has a broad knowledge of what to do to turn things around. I think Idaho definitely has a good voice in politics. I think people here are concerned about how things are going.”
Knudsen said that if the evening went late, they would stick around to vote as long as the process took. For her, the process was more important than any individual Republican hopeful.
“I like them all for different reasons and don’t like them all for different reasons,” she said.