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Coronavirus and a virtual tie: A strange Washington primary night

caption: Sanders supporters in Gasworks Park. They say they'll seek out any "challenged" ballots as more primary results are counted.
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Sanders supporters in Gasworks Park. They say they'll seek out any "challenged" ballots as more primary results are counted.
KUOW/Amy Radil

Joe Biden made a strong showing in Democratic primaries in other states. But in Washington, the initial results have him nearly tied with Bernie Sanders, who has a narrow lead in initial results.

RELATED: Washington primary night results: Bernie and Biden neck-and-neck

KUOW’s Amy Radil was out covering this very strange primary election night, coming as officials are warning against the spread of the coronavirus.

Angela King: How did the coronavirus affect our primary night in Washington State?

Officials have been warning people to stay in, and avoid large gatherings. So there were no big primary night campaign parties, in such a big election year.

RELATED: Democratic Nomination Is Now In View For Joe Biden — And 5 Other Takeaways

There was no one locally on hand for the Biden campaign, but he's gotten endorsements from local supporters like Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and other officials.

There was a very small gathering of Bernie Sanders supporters on Capitol Hill in Seattle. Carin Chase chairs the statewide campaign for Bernie Sanders. She says they made a get-out-the-vote effort on campuses and helped about 2,000 students vote for Sanders.

“We just closed up our shop on printing ballots for people at Seattle Central Community College," Chase said. "We had a lot of folks coming in that wanted to vote but had lost their ballot, didn’t have them available, so we had a portable printing station available so people could print them and walk over to the drop box.”

But Chase said most of the colleges have closed down because of the virus and have students studying online, so that reduced the number of students they could contact.

King: Sanders has had a lot of young supporters, did they say why they think those supporters didn’t bring a better showing for him nationwide?

Shasti Conrad chairs of the King County Democrats, and she’s a Sanders supporter. She says she thinks Democrats are traumatized and disoriented after 2016, and they bought the narrative that only Biden can defeat Trump. So she says they turned to someone familiar, from the Obama years, and that’s Joe Biden. But she thinks the progressive strain of the party will get stronger over time.

"I will admit that I am disappointed by the youth vote turnout," Conrad said. "I thought that we were building a larger coalition and I was hopeful that I was going to be bigger. But I still believe that we are trending in the right direction. Maybe it’s not this time but I believe in four, eight years we will have a firmly progressive candidate who will be in the White House again.”

King: So where do these Sanders supporters think they will go in the meantime?

I know some Sanders supporters are very passionate and have said they wouldn’t consider voting for other Democrats. But that’s not the tone I heard last night. Amy Madden says Sanders really galvanized his supporters by championing healthcare and the environment, and she wants to keep fighting for these issues but she wouldn’t not vote in November.

“I think getting Trump out of office is the highest priority for everyone," Madden said. "And you’re going to have a lot of Bernie Sanders supporters who -- if Biden is the nominee -- of course they will back him, but at this point … I think getting as many votes as possible for Sanders helps send a message for the kind of agenda we want.”

King: What’s the top priority for the Sanders campaign in Washington right now?

Shaun Scott is the state field director for Sanders. He predicts Sanders will win Washington state and he’s focused on reaching voters whose ballots weren’t counted, maybe because they failed to check a box for a political party.

Scott ran for Seattle City Council last fall as a Democratic Socialist, he lost to Alex Pedersen, but he gained ground in the days after the election and he expects Sanders to do the same.

“I saw it up close," Scott said. "A lot of the folks that I think are a little more disaffected from the political process, a lot of folks that want to see action on Medicare for All, a lot of folks who want to see action on a Green New Deal, those are folks that tend to vote a little bit later.”

King: So, many votes left to count.

Yes the next batch should be announced by 4 p.m. this afternoon.

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