Obama is choice for Eagle County Democrats | VailDaily.com

Obama is choice for Eagle County Democrats

Joel Hunt
Vail CO, Colorado
Preston Utley/Vail DailyAvon's Carol Sherer finds a spot on the floor in a packed county building Tuesday in Eagle during the caucus. More than 400 Democrats showed up

EAGLE, Colorado ” The Democratic presidential hopefuls have been preaching change for months now, and if Eagle County Democrats are any indication, the candidates are preaching to the choir.

Almost 400 boisterous and vocal Democrats overflowed the county commissioners’ chambers in Eagle and change ” locally and nationally ” was one of the common themes.

“Two words: fed up. That’s why there’s so many people here,” said caucus-goer John Hartley, of Eagle Ranch.

“This is the first time that I have … felt this inspired and hopeful” since John F. Kennedy, Katha Hartley said about Barack Obama. “These are the kind of crowds JFK inspired.”

Obama seemed to have inspired the most Eagle County Democrats, as they voted nearly 3-1 in favor of the Illinois senator over fellow front-runner Sen. Hillary Clinton.

At final count, Obama took 414 Eagle County Democratic delegates, Clinton had 150, nine people remained uncommitted, and Mike Gravel had one caucus supporter.

Veteran caucus-goer Stephen Richards, of Eagle, said the “overwhelming turnout” was because of the displeasure with the current administration.

“I think George Bush has done this for us,” he said.

It was the first caucus for Karen Shaw, of Edwards, who supported Clinton. Part of her reason for attending was because of her “deep disappointment in the current administration.”

Eagle County Democrats co-chair New New Wallace revved up the crowd by listing the local positions that have changed political hands to Democrats recently: governor, and seats in the state Legislature seats and the Eagle County Board of Commissioners.

“What we’re seeing here tonight reflects a change in Eagle County,” Wallace told the crowd in her opening remarks.

“Being liberal was a bad word; being Democratic was a bad word” in Eagle County in the past, she said later.

She also attributed the high turnout to Colorado’s earlier caucus date. Often in the past, Eagle County would caucus after the candidate was chosen, which discouraged many people from attending.

“Here, your vote counts,” Wallace said.

John Odell, of Gypsum, hadn’t attended a caucus before because it had little significance. “The first one’s going to be worthwhile,” he said of his vote. “I’ve always been interested in the whole process … as long as it’s relevant.”

As for the process, Odell said he could have used “a lot more information before the caucuses” instead of trying to wade through pages of instructions on the spot.

Richards said the process was still pretty smooth despite what he counted as about a threefold increase in attendees in his precinct from previous years. And despite the paperwork, “you make it up and go along, and usually it works out just fine,” he said.

Shaw said she felt like she knew the candidates and their positions but was a little let down by the caucus process.

“It wasn’t very focused,” she said of her precinct group. “There was no discussion.”

While Democrats showed their support Tuesday, keeping the momentum will be somewhat tougher. Despite an emerging Democratic interest and stronger party leadership in the county, local liberals still need precinct captains who will follow through to Election Day.

Precinct captains volunteer for such tasks as providing campaign support to local and regional candidates, keeping Democrats interested in the ongoing political process and getting out the vote.

“The thing that wins votes in Eagle County is knocking on doors ” (state Sen.) Dan Gibbs proved that,” Wallace said.

Next for local Democrats is the county assembly at 6 p.m., Feb. 25, in the County Building to pick state delegates, who will then go to the national convention in Denver.

Wallace said she wasn’t sure having the Democratic National Convention had any effect on the precinct caucus because of the slim chance delegates have of actually being chosen to represent Colorado Democrats at the national convention.

Joel Hunt can be reached at jhunt@vaildaily.com or 748-2921.

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