By Dave Rasdal
SOUTH AMANA — The coffee pot was on Tuesday night, a small American flag waved from a spot on the caucus chairman’s table and the ballots were counted in the kitchen.
Iowa’s caucuses, the principal of grass roots efforts, were never more evident than in front of the stone fireplace in the great room of a century-old brick home owned by Eric and Kim Zuber in South Amana, population about 200.
“We thought we’d do it again,” said Kim, 47, who hosted an off-election-year caucus 2 years ago.
“It was small,” she laughed. “We sat around the dining room table. Six of us were here.”
This time 35 Republicans gathered as neighborhood dogs barked in the distance. They came from across 3 townships — Honey Creek, Marengo and Washington — that meant up to 30-minute drives for people such as Alice DeRycke of rural Belle Plaine, who hosted the caucus 4 years ago.
They signed in on an antique Amana-made table, grabbed coffee in Styrofoam cups and took their seats, some in borrowed chairs.
DeRycke, who served as temporary chair, was unanimously selected as permanent chair. A longtime party faithful, she said, “I don’t think there’s anybody here that’ll be happier than me that the telemarketers are done.”
Most participants arrived with minds made up for the presidential vote, thought that didn’t stop Jack Andrews of rural Belle Plaine from saying, “I believe the Lord made up my mind for me,” as he endorsed former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Voting took but a couple of minutes before first-time caucus-goer Mary Jane Stanerson of Marengo collected the ballots and walked to the kitchen for the count.
Her husband, Ron, 68, also at his first caucus, kept his vote secret “because I can.”
“The importance of this election, I feel, is if we don’t watch it, all of our freedoms are going to be gone,” he said.
Hannah Gott, 18, of South Amana joined her parents, caucus veterans Martha and David Gott, for her first caucus.
“I want more control of my future than my government gives me,” she said.
Once the vote was counted, Texas Rep. Ron Paul and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum had 10 votes each, followed by 8 for Gingrich, 4 for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, 2 for Texas Gov. Rick Perry and 1 for Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.
After party platform discussions, as these caucus goers called it night, they walked beneath a sign that read “Faith. Hope. Love.” knowing they had done their part.