Obama energized young Vail Valley voters | VailDaily.com

Obama energized young Vail Valley voters

Chris Outcalt
Vail, CO Colorado
AP PhotoPresident-elect Barack Obama electrified local Democrats like Ronald Reagan galvanized Republicans, one local candidate said.

VAIL, Colorado ” The 2008 election attracted hundreds more young Vail Valley voters than the election in 2004.

More than 1,600 18- to 24-year-olds in Eagle County cast ballots in November, and both Republicans and Democrats said they noticed the difference on the campaign trail.

“In 2004 there was a lot of talk about the youth vote ” this time they did turn out,” said Democratic Rep. Christine Scanlan. “I saw it most when we were doing voter registration drives.”

Only 960 people in Eagle County under the age of 25 voted in the 2004 election.

Scanlan edged Republican candidate Ali Hasan for the state House District 56 seat, which covers Eagle, Summit and Lake Counties. She credited both President-elect Barack Obama and problems like the War in Iraq and climate change for motivating young people.

“Hopefully they stick around,” said Scanlan, who plans to try and continue to engage younger residents of the district. “I think you do it through the Internet and cell phones, this is the technology generation.”

The 25- to 34-year-old category saw an even bigger spike in voters this election. In 2004, 3,329 people in that category voted. In November, 4,472 25- to 34-year-olds voted ” a 1,143-voter increase.

Hasan noticed more enthusiasm from young voters, and said President-elect Barack Obama and the Democrats generated it.

“I actively campaigned for George W. Bush in 2004 and 2000 and I’ve never seen young Democrats as motivated by a presidential candidate,” Hasan said. “He energized Democrats the way Reagan energized Republicans.”

Although interest was generated more on the national level, Hasan said it helped dictate local races.

“The energy starts at the top, maybe 30 years ago the local level had more energy,” Hasan said.

Democrat Jon Stavney ” who was elected to his first term as county commissioner ” agreed interest in the election came from the presidential race.

“I noticed more interest in politics from the next generation of young voters,” Stavney said. “Obama did a great job getting out the vote, I think he has a real appeal to young voters.”

Voters under 25-years-old represented 5 percent of those that cast ballots in 2004 ” that number jumped to 7 percent in 2008.

Carole Onderdonk, co-chair of the Eagle County Democrats, said many of the young people got involved in politics for the first time in their lives.

“We had tons of young volunteers, they came off the streets,” Onderdonk said. “It was a lot of fun having them around.”

Even though voters may have been drawn to the election by Obama, Onderdonk said she thought they followed through on the local races.

“People get a little more serious about races up and down the ticket,” she said. “I think it did carry down.”

Republican Sen. Al White wasn’t sure how much of an impact young voters had on the state Senate District 8 race.

White said he thinks the issues important to young people are the same as those in the rest of the district.

“I can’t say I consider one demographic more than others, everybody is a constituent,” White said. “I don’t know that the younger demographics’ concerns are any different than others. They’re concerned about the economy, environment and education.”

Staff Writer Chris Outcalt can be reached at 970-748-2931 or coutcalt@vaildaily.com.

Support Local Journalism