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Ron Paul supporters crash special religious caucus

February 04, 2012|By Michael J. Mishak
(Jason Bean/AP )

Reporting from Las Vegas — When Rabbi Shea Harlig took in the packed room at a special evening caucus for Republicans who observe a Saturday sabbath, he couldn't believe his eyes.

While it was standing room only, few donned religious garb.

"I didn't realize there were so many orthodox Jews and Seventh Day Adventists living in Las Vegas," he said wryly.

There aren't. Unless "Ron Paul" is a religion.

The Texas congressman's "revolution" stormed a special caucus at a private school in a tony suburb on the edge of Las Vegas, set up by Clark County GOP officials for those who couldn't caucus with the rest of the state Saturday morning for religious reasons.

"We decided we were going to come in here and do it anyway, no matter what," said Sam McCaslin, a 38-year-old record company executive. "There is no law that says your vote is based on your religion."

But there are party rules. And the Paulites bent them, helping Paul win a crushing victory. He received 183 votes, more than twice the total of Mitt Romney, the second place finisher.

Paul's campaign made last-minute calls directing supporters to the special site at the Adelson Educational Campus. Dozens of them signed a party declaration saying they missed Saturday's caucuses because of "religious beliefs."

In fact, voters like Pedro Hedeiros had shown up late and missed their morning meetings.

Paul's dominance was clear, with at least 17 voters speaking on his behalf. After one shouted "End the Fed," the crowd applauded -- and then screamed "Move on!"

Romney garnered four surrogates. Santorum, three.

With a last-minute crush of voters and some caucus mishaps earlier in the day, party officials seemed eager to complete the day's business, furiously registering voters.

"They could be here with an Irish brogue, we don't care," said Assemblyman John Hambrick. "As long as they sign an affidavit."

The coup dealt an embarrassment to Sheldon Adelson, Newt Gingrich's biggest benefactor and founder of the school. The casino mogul attended the caucus but took no questions.

Michael.mishak@latimes.com

Twitter.com/mjmishak

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