Grand County tilts heavily toward Obama, Romney in caucuses | SkyHiNews.com

Grand County tilts heavily toward Obama, Romney in caucuses

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News

Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi Daily News

Never having fully understood what a caucus entailed before, last night I learned their power ” even though critics might say the system is archaic.

I attended the Democratic caucus at the Grand Lake firehouse and joined the precinct comprised of my neighbors.

From a show of hands, those in attendance from Precincts 1 and 10 ” loosely defined as inner and outer Grand Lake ” revealed that I’m not alone in having never been to one before.

About 90 percent of the 39 registered democrats in the room were also new to the caucus scene.

“We’re a motivated group,” someone said from the crowd.

The few who’d been to past caucuses commented on the encouraging numbers.

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Four years ago, there were just six there.

After Precinct 10 Chairman Jim Cervenka explained the rules to everyone, the floor was open to comments or presentations.

Barak Obama supporter Gail Brooks stood up, and wearing a campaign button, presented her reasons for backing him, explaining the differences between the front-running Democratic presidential candidates.

Her speech was followed by Hillary Clinton supporter Jan Gamez, a local elementary school teacher, who touched on health care reform, immigration policy and her take on President Bush’s “No Child Left Behind.”

What would come out of the night’s caucus, Cervenka explained, were a few important elements.

The precincts would send forth delegates from each precinct to the March 11 county caucus held in Granby. Those chosen may then be selected to the Democratic State Assembly in Colorado Springs on May 17, and from there, could continue to August’s Democratic National Convention in Denver.

After rules were explained and speeches were made, the room was divided into precincts. Precinct 10 was directed to the east side of the room; Precinct 1, to the west side.

With the groups now smaller, the opportunity for discussion became easier.

Cervenka remained the precinct chairman by a vote. Steve Boyle offered to be the secretary.

I recognized most of the people in my precinct, many townspeople I’ve respected over the years. There were foresters and educators, shop owners and retirees, and one thing they all had in common, they were Democrats, dedicated to the same basic ideologies.

This fact alone opened the doors to free-flowing discourse.

All have been diligently reading their syndicated newspapers and watching 24-hour cable news, as well as national debates. They came to the caucus educated and well-versed on their party’s candidates, what our nation faces and what is at stake with the November election.

After a straw pull ( a show of hands ) to decide between Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama; the result was seven for Clinton, eight for Obama.

But wait, there were sixteen in the group. One person announced he was uncommitted. The rules state that if there is someone uncommitted, they either have to make up their mind or refrain from the vote.

So a quasi-debate ensued, as voters explained reasons why they supported their candidate.

“Thank God neither of them are Bush,” said Ralph Green.

J.R. Faivre told the group how the enthusiasm this election brings him back 45 years to another election when the U.S. was similarly charged in the process.

“My only fear is that we wind up with another Jimmy Carter. We need to be very, very careful,” commented Sandy Doudna, who warned fellow Democrats about not letting the excitement for change override the need for an exceptional president.

Joan Boyle touted Obama’s political record in Illinois.

“I agree, he’s very charismatic, I think he’ll be a wonderful vice president,” Doudna said.

In their support of either candidate, voters discussed health care, the environment, and how 2008 election campaigns are energizing politically apathetic generations.

“My biggest fear is the incredible amount of debt this country is in,” said Mandy Hanifen, a federal employee, who wants leadership for the environment’s sake in Washington D.C. ” if not globally, she said.

Meanwhile, from the west side of the room, Precinct 1 was having way too much fun.

“Jim, suppose Precinct 1 could tone it down?” joked Green.

“They’re large and loud,” Doudna said.

The discussion among neighbors continued.

“The final concern for me is electability,” one voter said.

“They’re both extremely intelligent, something this administration has been lacking,” said another.

“Maybe I’m not cynical enough ” is there a better way to work in a bi-partisan fashion, and even with other forces around the world?” asked Steve Boyle. “I think there has to be a better way. We can’t go on and perpetuate warfare between the two parties, much less with the rest of the world.”

The exchange went on.

Then, it was time to vote again, and all eyes turned to the uncommitted voter.

“You’re on the spot,” someone said.

“I’m not uncommitted anymore,” he announced.

The vote: Obama, eight; Clinton, eight.

After a vote on which delegates who would continue to the county assembly in March, and a vote on the U.S. Senate Democratic race, (they unanimously chose U.S. Rep. Mark Udall), the group then discussed and chose four resolutions stating platforms they’d like heard on the county, state and national levels. They’re concerned about health care, they support renewable energy, and protection of natural resources and, specifically regarding Grand County, they support affordable housing.

By then, it was 9 p.m., and time to wrap it up.

In Precinct 1, the voting result was also close: 12 for Clinton, 11 for Obama

And even though their tallied votes last night went toward a “temperature reading” of voters, not a true a means to elect a Democratic candidate, the caucus brought together neighbors and fueled discussion in a positive forum ” reminding us all of the country we are privileged to live in, where a process embraces hope and the foundation of freedom for all.

” To reach Tonya Bina, e-mail tbina@grandcountynews.com or 970-887-3334 ext. 19603.

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