Florida Sen. Rubio wins District of Columbia’s GOP caucuses

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File

WASHINGTON (AP) — Florida Sen. Marco Rubio narrowly won the District of Columbia’s Republican caucuses on Saturday, seizing his third primary season victory as a critical contest looms in his home state, GOP results showed.

Rubio picked up 10 delegates with his Saturday caucus win in the nation’s capital with 37 percent of the ballot, according to the results released by party officials in the nation’s capital. Runner-up John Kasich was just 50 votes behind Rubio at 36 percent, and the Ohio governor will get nine delegates.

None of the other candidates in the race won enough votes to earn any delegates from the contest, in which GOP officials in the nation’s capital said 2,839 votes were cast. Billionaire businessman Donald Trump was third with 14 percent of the vote and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz followed with 12 percent, results showed.

Earlier this month, Rubio won the GOP caucuses in Minnesota and the party’s primary in Puerto Rico.

Fueled in part by anxiety over Donald Trump, District of Columbia Republicans flocked to a downtown hotel on Saturday to cast ballots in the city’s first-of-its-kind presidential convention.

The convention — essentially a primary conducted in a single, supersized precinct — offered a rare opportunity for Republicans in the overwhelmingly Democratic nation’s capital to cast a meaningful vote, with 19 delegates to the national convention at stake. Thousands of people embraced the opportunity, with some waiting more than 3 hours in a line stretching three full city blocks at times.

“This is worse than getting a new iPhone,” said Jeni Hansen, 38, who works in the tourism industry.

Some waited more than three hours before casting ballots after voting was extended.

Volunteers for Trump, Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Rubio were handing out brochures and stickers with support appearing particularly strong for Rubio during the day. The District’s 27,000 registered Republicans tend to be moderate and establishment-friendly, and some voters sported a sticker with the hashtag “#NeverTrump.”

“Trump alternately scares and horrifies me,” said Bryan Marra, a 39-year-old attorney who was running as a delegate for Rubio. “He scares off people we need to bring into the party — Latinos, young people, women.”

The local GOP is heavy on what some would call “Beltway elites” — lawyers, lobbyists, political strategists and think-tank wonks. Candidates for delegate include former White House officials from the Reagan and both Bush administrations.

Robert Kabel, the city’s Republican national committeeman, said the convention was the most exciting local GOP gathering in decades, and he credited the anti-Trump contingent.

“I think he helped us bring people out — people who are supporting the other candidates,” Kabel said. “D.C. by definition is the establishment town.”

But Marya Pickering, who’s running as a Trump delegate, said the businessman deserves credit for bringing new, energetic voters to the party. She’s been active in local Republican politics for more than 20 years and she said she’s never met most of the would-be Trump delegates.

“I hope people will unite behind him because I think he can win,” Pickering said.

Many people said they couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Trump if he wins the nomination. Christopher Goffos, a 24-year-old Rubio supporter, said Trump is “not a conservative” and that he would vote for a third-party or write-in candidate over Trump in November.

“As a Christian person I can’t choose between the lesser of two evils,” Goffos said. “I can’t vote for somebody that I think is going to radically change the country.”

Though polls had Polls had been scheduled to close at 4 p.m., but

Voting was extended more than three hours past the scheduled main 4 p.m. poll closing time to give the hundreds still in line an opportunity to cast ballots. Orthodox Jews also were given the opportunity to vote after sundown. The District had 19 delegates to allocate.

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