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Democratic candidate seeks independent vote

Veronica Whitney

Critics accused Nader, who ran for president in 1996 and 2000 as a candidate for the Green Party, of taking votes away from Democrat Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election. Gore narrowly lost to President Bush.

Hoping to avoid Gore’s fate, Sandberg is trying to unify Democrats and independents with the message that a vote for unaffiliated candidate Laurie Bower is a vote for Republican Tom Stone, the incumbent.

“We certainly haven’t focused on this issue throughout the campaign, but this is a tight race, and these crucial independent votes will put Gerry over the top,” says Sandberg’s campaign manager, Susie Davis.

The announcement comes days after Democrat Michael Gallagher, chairman of the Board of Commissioners, crossed party lines and endorsed Stone.

Bower, however, says she isn’t any closer to Sandberg’s ideals than she is to Stone’s.

“I have a platform. Neither of those candidates have one,” Bower says. “So how do people know what they stand for? If they don’t want Stone to be elected, they should back me.”

But Davis and Sandberg say they’re confident Bower’s bid is futile based on their own informal polling and the opinions of several political strategists who have followed past elections in Eagle County.

“Our campaign is reaching out to moderate Republicans, independents and Democrats with the message that a vote for Laurie Bower is a vote for Tom Stone,” Davis says.

Bower says voters should ignore Sandberg’s scheme and pick the best candidate. She also says her bid for a seat on the Board of Commissioners could end in victory.

“I think this is a strategy that they’re using because they’re worried that I might win,” Bower says. “Both the Democrats and the Republicans are trying to get the vote of the unaffiliated voters by claiming all sorts of things. I’m more in a position to represent the people.

“I’m running because I think people are tired of the two-party system of government,” she adds. “What we end up with is a very expensive football game between the Democrats and the Republicans.”

To support their strategy, Davis says Sandberg and Bower share many of the same values and ideals. She also says Bower’s campaign doesn’t have the visibility needed to win the election.

Sandberg equates the current situation in Eagle County to what the media dubbed the “Ralph Nader effect” in the 2000 Presidential election.

“One of the reasons George Bush is President today is because so many Democrats and independent-minded voters took votes away from Al Gore by voting for Ralph Nader,” Sandberg says. “I suspect that none of Ralph Nader’s supporters were pleased with the outcome of that election, so we’re doing our best to avoid a similar fate here in Eagle County.”

Bower says she’s flattered to be compared to Nader, but she doesn’t think the this year’s county commissioner race is comparable to the 2000 presidential election.

“America may not have been ready for a Green Party candidate like Nader was,” she adds. “There weren’t enough Green Party voters to get him elected. But Eagle County is certainly ready for an independent or unaffiliated commissioner – especially since it’s the largest group of voters in the county.”

Four years ago in Eagle County, an independent candidate split the vote, and Tom Stone narrowly won the election, Sandberg says. In that election, he says, independent candidate June Deane took votes from Democratic candidate Jacque Whitsitt in the 1998 District 3 commissioners race.

Stone won that election with 44 percent of the votes (4,188 votes) over

Whitsitt, who got 38 percent of the votes (3,675 votes). The rest of the votes, 18 percent (1,304 votes), went to Deane.

Stone says that Sandberg’s push for the independent vote assumes Bower will only take away Democratic votes.

“I got the impression that Laurie Bower is running her campaign because she believes she can win,” Stone says. “The fact that there’s a third choice might encourage more people to vote.”

Stone says a person should vote for a candidate and not against one.

“Our system works well and there should be as many parties as there can be,” he adds.

Some Eagle county voters, such as Sally Miller of Eagle, agree with Stone.

“I would still vote where I feel,” she says. “Even if my vote was wasted.”

Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at vwhitney@vaildaily.com.


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