VAIL " With a cowboy hat and a thick North Carolina accent, Jim Childers looked out of place at Thursday's Mountain Democrats "bag lunch" fundraiser. Although his look is typically associated with President Bush, Childers said he went to the meeting hoping for the opposite.
"I came looking for a savior, somebody to save us from the desperate situation we are in now," said Childers, who lives outside of Glenwood Springs.
Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin spoke at the event, which party members paid $25 to get into and had to bring bag lunches if they wanted to eat more than cheese and crackers.
Feingold has been traveling the country trying to build up local Democratic parties ahead of the 2006 Congressional elections, in which Democrats are expected to campaign heavily to regain control of the Congress.
"I think Democrats are looking for inspiration, and I think he (Feingold) gives them inspiration," Marshall Turley of Eagle-Vail said.
Pete Buckley, a Republican who lives in Avon and did not attend the speech, said he thinks Eagle county is rapidly becoming liberal, "especially since we've elected Democratic County Commissioners that are willing to overspend the budget by millions of dollars."
"I think it would be better financially for the county if there were less blue in it," Buckley said.
At the luncheon, Feingold also expressed his opposition of the war in Iraq, criticizing what he said was President Bush's lack of "accountability." Feingold was the only senator to oppose the Patriot Act following Sept. 11. Feingold said terrorists win if Americans change the way they live and ignore the Bill of Rights.
"He expressed what he truly believes in the face of a lot of opposition, and that says something about him," Childers said.
Eagle County Commissioner Peter Runyon, a Democrat, said he was "impressed with his straight-talking style," he said. But while most Mountain Democrats said they would support Feingold if he runs in the 2008 presidential election, Runyon said he was hesitant.
"He is Jewish, and I can see tremendous problems in the Arab world," Runyon said. "It's unfortunate. It shouldn't matter, but in the Middle East it's huge ... Hate against Jews is enormous (in the Middle East)."
Others don't consider Feingold's religion a factor.
"Feingold, being a Jew, is behaving more Christian than the one who says he is a Christian," said John Gorman of Glenwood Springs, referring to President Bush.
Some of the audience members were surprised that Feingold said he supports private gun ownership, citing self-defense and the prevalence of hunting in Wisconsin.
With respect to his conservative views on guns and his cooperation with Republicans, Feingold has been a bridge between the Democrats and Republicans, said Gay Moore of Glenwood Springs.
"He (Feingold) proves that we can work together," Moore said.