Grand County Democratic delegates energized at state convention |

Grand County Democratic delegates energized at state convention

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News

About 10,000 voting delegates, alternates and press gathered at the World Arena in Colorado Springs last weekend for the largest-ever Democratic State Assembly and Convention, and 18 of the delegates were from Grand County, according to Grand County Democratic Party Chairman Clint Roberts.

Delegates chosen at the county assembly and a number of delegate alternatives committed gas money and hotel expenses to represent voters for one of the final rungs of the Colorado caucus ladder.

“Security was tight,” said Jan Gamez of Grand Lake, a first-time delegate. “You couldn’t even set foot in the World Arena parking lot without a ticket. You couldn’t get a ticket unless you produced your credentials. You couldn’t get your credentials unless your preprinted credentials came in the U.S. mail. If the credentials didn’t come in the mail, one would have to make lots of phone calls to the Democratic Headquarters and plead your case.”

Two Fraser Valley delegates, Eileen Waldow (for Barack Obama) and Catherine Ross for (Hillary Clinton), were able to get themselves on the ballot to represent at the August national convention in Denver.

Although hopeful, Roberts and company are doubtful anyone from Grand County will move forward.

Several hundred delegates were on the ballot, a ballot half an inch thick.

“You heard what the odds were. I don’t have much optimism that I’ll make it, but it was worth the try,” Waldow said.

Statewide, some delegate candidates, many of whom have been involved in politics for many years, spent thousands of dollars campaigning for one of the seven positions that would allow them to stand on the Democratic National Convention floor. Some even sent out campaign information in the mail to get fellow delegates to vote for them.

“I was at the state convention two years ago. It wasn’t a presidential election year, so it was small and subdued,” Waldow said. “But this year it was very enthusiastic and upbeat.”

Waldow applied by the April deadline to get on the ballot, she said, and while at the convention handed out fliers. She and five other people wore T-shirts proclaiming her candidacy. “It was fun and educational to see how the whole process works,” she said.

Attendees also cast votes for who would represent Colorado in the electoral college, and Colorado party platform issues were established.

At Democratic Party headquarters in Denver on Tuesday, a staffer said the office was “hectic” counting convention ballots. Results are not due out until today.

In the presidential candidacy vote, eight Grand County delegates supported Obama (three Obama delegates were not present), seven were for Clinton, Roberts reported.

Delegates listened to a series of speeches “and every few minutes we all stood up and cheered,” he said, adding that the weekend “was a lot like a marathon.”

Gamez seconded that motion.

“To be an attendee to this wonderful event, patience was in order and definitely a virtue,” she said, “especially if one had the metal folding-up type of chair. I couldn’t help notice that the other counties present had the upholstered chairs. Word up: If you are going to the National Conference bring your floaties ” be prepared to sit for long lengths of time.”

Not that it wasn’t interesting: “Democrats know how to party,” Gamez said.

“Interspersed with the hoopla and speeches was lots of music.”

One common message delivered during the event was “to put down swords and come together as a united party” when the presidential candidate is finalized, Roberts said.

Roberts, convention volunteer, attended the event with fiance Maureen Wenger, a county delegate. He’s for Obama; she’s for Clinton. “We are a mixed household,” Roberts said.

It was Wenger’s first political convention, and as a former high-school cheerleader, she was heard saying the event “was much like a pep rally.”

According to Roberts, a query during the convention revealed that better than half of those in the room were at a political convention for the first time ever.

“I think that’s significant,” Roberts said. “There’s new life, new blood in the party.”

By handing out ballots, he estimated that one in three people were about 18 to 25 years-old.

“I was at the state convention in 2006 and in 2004,” Roberts said. “I don’t recall seeing as many young people as … this year.”

Anticipating that she’ll not be elected to attend the National Convention, Waldow already has another plan in the works. Not wanting to miss it, she hopes to attend the convention as a volunteer.

“It’s a history-making event,” she said. “And there has to be some changes made in our country.”

” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail