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Recent changes buoy Dems hopes

SUMMIT COUNTY – Democrats who thought 2004 was going to shape up to be an uneventful election year now believe they might have more than a fleeting chance to recoup seats in both the state and federal legislatures.

The change of tide began earlier this month, said state Democratic Party Secretary Dan Slater.

First, he noted, the state Supreme Court heard Attorney General Ken Salazar’s case challenging the Republican’s state redistricting boundaries. If Salazar is successful, at a minimum, the 7th Congressional District will become one of the nation’s most heavily-targeted races.



Then, Slater said, Congressman Scott McInnis announced he would not seek re-election in the normally Democratic 3rd Congressional District, which has incited Democrats in that district to plan on regaining that seat.

Adding to the mix was Aurora Rep. Suzanne Williams, who threw her hat in the senatorial ring against Bruce Cairns. Democrats see that as one of the best opportunities to recoup a seat in the one-vote margin state Senate, Slater said.



A statewide poll also showed that 43 percent of those polled would vote to re-elect President George W. Bush, and only a third would vote to re-elect U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo. Additionally, U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, D-Boulder, is toying with the idea of running against Campbell next year.

“We stand poised to make history in Colorado,” Slater said.

He listed the potential changes, including having a 4-3 majority in Colorado’s congressional delegation, a Democratic U.S. senator, a majority in the state Senate, giving Colorado’s nine electoral votes to a Democratic presidential candidate and narrowing the GOP stronghold in the state Legislature.

“I think there’s definitely been an improvement in the Democrats’ position,” said Summit County Democrat chairman George Sherman. “The mood of the country has shifted dramatically. Bush’s ratings are down, the behavior of the Republicans in Colorado has been particularly egregious, and people are reacting to that.

“No doubt about it,” he said, “there’s a feeling Bush has drawn the line so clearly the Democrats will have no difficulty convincing people that they’re on the right side of the line against Bush. Medicare, medical costs, insurance, the environment, a woman’s right to choose, the economy, what’s going on in Iraq – all the issues. That’s certainly made us more enthusiastic.”

Democrats have been criticized in the past year for their lack of cohesiveness in both platform stances and support for a viable presidential candidate.

“These (recent events) have galvanized the Democrats,” Sherman said. “It’s brought us renewed enthusiasm for the coming election.”

The local party has been raising funds, trying to figure out how to bring the growing Hispanic population into their folds and researching registration demographics in an attempt to encourage people to vote.

Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or jstebbins@summitdaily.com.


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