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Ramada, Bismarck temple abuzz with caucus activity

Fargo-area Democrats were streaming into the Ramada Plaza Suites Tuesday, where nine of the state's 46 legislative districts began caucusing at 2 p.m.

Fargo-area Democrats were streaming into the Ramada Plaza Suites Tuesday, where nine of the state's 46 legislative districts began caucusing at 2 p.m.

"It's a crowd, it's a crowd," said Dan Hannaher, marveling at the crowd and greeting people as they came one after the other into Ballroom No. 3 around 2:15 p.m. Hannaher is Massachusetts' Sen. John Kerry's North Dakota campaign chairman.

About that same time, a bus from Fargo's Bethany Homes retirement center let out in front of the hotel. Those who climbed off were heading into the ballroom to vote for one of seven Democratic candidates vying for the chance to face President Bush in the November general election.

Ballroom No. 3 was divided in half, a large green curtain separating the electioneering area from the voting area. As one enters, the front is the caucusing areas, with fliers and memorabilia available from five candidates: Gen. Wesley Clark, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, Kerry and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich. No booths were set up for Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman or The Rev. Al Sharpton.

With a convention-like atmosphere, candidate supporters are touting why those coming into the ballroom should vote for their candidate. Tables are set up for people to talk and people are milling about them, many still choosing who they will support. Once they've decided, they go behind the green curtain, find their district (there is an information desk for those who don't know), and cast their ballot. There is also a polling place for those in Fargo from outside the area. The actual election booths have to be 20 feet from any electioneering, according to state law.

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In Bismarck, people were inside the Labor Temple at 1:30 p.m., waiting to vote. Parking is nearly full in the lot. The Labor Temple is the voting site for five Bismarck-area districts.

Vern Thompson, executive director of the North Dakota Democratic-NPL, said he already received calls by 2:45 p.m. from Langdon and Fort Totten, requesting more ballots or registration forms. Thompson is still taking a lot of calls at the party's Bismarck headquarters.

Chad Nodland, chairman of the Bismarck caucus site, said, "If it stays like this until 7 o' clock, I'll be elated."

Tim Purdon, chairman of Bismarck-area Democrats, said, "I don't recognized most of these people. That's great. Great for the party."

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