Local Dems catching GOP | VailDaily.com

Local Dems catching GOP

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” The number of active Democratic voters is almost equal to the number of registered Republicans.

As of Friday afternoon, there were 6,331 Democrats registered in Eagle County compared to 6,402 Republicans, a difference of 71 voters, County Clerk Teak Simonton said.

About a week ago, the difference was about 150 voters; two weeks ago it was almost 200, she said.

The largest bloc ” 8,894 voters ” remains unaffiliated, she said.

“It seems to me the Republicans were as high as 36 percent and Democrats were 25 or 26 percent and whatever was left was unaffiliated,” Simonton said, recalling numbers when she took office in 2003. “The unaffiliated is still the fastest growing but it also appears Democrats are gaining on Republicans.”

Randy Milhoan, chairman of the Eagle County Republican Party, said he’s not surprised.

“It’s a trend because people are upset about the war, they don’t think the war should be going on,” Milhoan said. “I disagree, I think this war was worth the fight and will be worth the fight.”

“I think, also, a lot of people want some kind of change regardless of whether it’s good or not.”

Milhoan said Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has captivated a lot people and that many young people who register to vote are likely to be Democrats.

“Obama, he’s a good speaker,” Milhoan said. “I don’t think he ever says a thing but he does speak very well when he’s got a teleprompter.”

Debbie Marquez, a longtime local Democrat Party leader who was a delegate to this year’s national convention in Denver, said the Republican Party is losing support because people are excited about Obama and Mark Udall, Colorado’s Democratic U.S. Senate candidate.

“I think people are dissatisfied with the Republicans,” she said. “Since Bush has been in office, look where our economy is. And there are still people dying in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The Republicans really took our country to a place I never thought it would be,” she said.

Avon Mayor Ron Wolfe is a lifelong Republican who says he is supporting Democratic county commissioner candidates Peter Runyon and Jon Stavney because of frustrations with the local GOP. He also said he will vote for John McCain for president.

He said any increase in voter registration is good for the country.

“What I’ve heard talking to people is that a lot of people who didn’t vote before are going to vote this year,” Wolfe said. “They feel distressed by any number of things, from the war to the economy.

“And they are going to vote for Obama in particular because they feel they will be part of a historical event.”

Democrats will hold one last voter registration drive beginning at 11:45 a.m., Sunday at Marquez’ restaurant, Fiesta’s, in Edwards. Udall, who is now Eagle County’s representative in Congress, is expected to attend.

Marquez said the Democrats also have focused on registering Hispanic voters.

“The Hispanic community is under-represented at the voting booth in our county,” she said. “There are hundreds of eligible but unregistered Hispanics and we are doing all we can to change that. The current economic crisis is a good reason for the Hispanic community to vote.”

With the deadline to register to vote coming Monday, Milhoan said Republicans will be out knocking on doors in Eagle County this weekend, campaigning for the party’s candidates and urging people to register.

“Our principal concern is the local candidates but we’d really like to win every seat we’re engaged in, from county commissioner to the president,” Milhoan said. “We’re supporting every candidate to the best of our ability.

“The Democrats have been out working hard and so have we,” he added, “It’s going to be a hard fought battle to the very end.”

Managing Editor Matt Zalaznick can be reached at at 748-2926 or mzalaznick@vaildaily.com.

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