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Democrats eye Eagle County

Nathan Rodriguez

Like a surfer riding a large wave into shore, Democrats hope to translate potential momentum from the DNC into actual votes this fall.

“The convention was scheduled for Denver because the Mountain West is very important to the party,” said Debbie Marquez, an Edwards resident who will be a delegate at this year’s convention. “We’ve been trending Democratic in the West for the past two election cycles, the DNC recognized the importance of the West, and made the step to take the convention to Denver for that reason.”

Marquez said Colorado, along with a cluster of southwestern states, is “the new south” for the Democrats, and ” given less than favorable results for Democrats in the south recently ” the West is quickly becoming a region where the left sees untapped potential.

For Marquez, this election represents a fundamental choice between progress and pessimism. She said her party is the only one to offer a forward-thinking agenda, whether the issue is alternative energy, health care, education ” or anything else.

“The point is that the Republicans are bankrupt. The party has nothing fresh; no new ideas of any kind,” she said. “All they have to do is go back to the old piggy bank and try to create wedges with ballot initiatives, and I think people will see right through it and won’t be fooled any longer.”

For some voters, the choice will be that clear. For many others, however, the Democrats face a tougher battle in making their case.

“I think the message of hope and change and a new generation can only take you so far,” said Eric Sondermann, a political analyst in Denver. “You still need to do campaigns the old fashioned way, and there are a lot of voters that Democrats need to reach who are inclined to other messages.”

Sondermann tempers that sentiment by saying he doesn’t feel Democrats will simply reduce things to a call for change while resting on their laurels.

“They’re very, very hungry this year, and they aren’t going to get caught napping,” he said. “The point is, they shouldn’t just plan on putting all their eggs in the basket of Obama’s message.”

In Eagle County, Democrats have been mobilizing.

“We’ve been seeing a lot of people getting active for a variety of campaigns,” Marquez said, listing the Obama campaign, the social group, ‘Drinking Liberally,’ and monthly luncheons in Edwards that have been well-attended. “So in every capacity, Democrats have pulled through.”

Aside from periodic gatherings, the party has been engaged in more traditional voter outreach programs.

“We’ve had appearances at the parade, at the fair ” really anywhere ” to get as much visibility for candidates as we possibly can,” said Billy Compton, state political director of the Colorado Democrats. “And in addition to pounding the pavement and knocking on doors, we’ve been registering voters left and right, which we think is a strategy that will carry the Democratic ticket.”

Carole Onderdonk, co-chair of the Eagle County Democrats, is confident the party will hold on to the county.

“We have fabulous candidates in these races, and I really think we’re going to be fine,” she said, citing Ken Brenner’s active door-to-door campaigning for the State Senate, Christine Scanlan’s intimate knowledge of local issues in the House District 56 election, County Commisioner Peter Runyon’s “incredible integrity,” and former Eagle mayor Jon Stavney’s even-handed appeal in the County Commissioner race.

In July, Fred Barnes penned a cover story for The Weekly Standard, entitled “The Colorado Model.” In it, he suggested a confidential memo circulated among Democrats who outlined their plans to “lock in Democratic control of Colorado for years to come.”

In what comes across at times as an alarmist observation, Barnes insists Democrats have an elaborate scheme to ensure Colorado stays blue.

He argued nearly $12 million is being spent to ensure a Democratic landslide in the state, and thinks the “model,” if proven successful, will become a blueprint for victory in other states.

According to Barnes, the Colorado Model relies on “rich liberal donors” and a “vast infrastructure of liberal organizations that produces an anti-Republican, anti-conservative echo chamber in politics and the media.”

But perhaps the most astonishing thing about the Colorado Model is the implicit assumption that it represents something new. And maybe it does, as Democrats haven’t exactly been associated with the strategic and tactical expertise of, say, someone like Karl Rove.

“The label ‘Colorado Model’ may be new, but much of the process is not exactly revolutionary,” said Norman Provizer, professor of political science at Metro State College in Denver. “But what it does do is remind you that a lot of these national issues are interconnected with the state and local races, because ‘change’ by itself means very little ” candidates are going to have to connect that idea with local issues.”

And, as far as specific issues that will find the most traction with both Democrats and potential Democrats this fall, party officials plan to leave that up to the candidates.

“We really let the candidates emphasize and take care of the issues, and just support them with a normal precinct structure and get out the vote efforts,” Compton said. He argued the country has “headed down the tubes” since the Bush administration came to power, so there shouldn’t be a shortage of issues for candidates to discuss.

“We’ve lost not only civil rights, but our debt to other countries has gotten completely out of hand. Between terrible trade policies and the war in Iraq, we can’t even take care of our sick children or war veterans right now, and it’s destroying our country.”


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