In battleground state, valley voters provide glimpse of political divide
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado
ASPEN ” Boyd Bierbaun plans to vote for Sen. John McCain in November because the two share the same values.
“I’m an ultra-conservative,” a Glenwood Springs resident said. “I believe [in] supporting the military, keeping government small, and I believe in family.”
In Aspen, however, Chip Cummins will be voting for Sen. Barack Obama because he said the candidate has the stronger green energy plan.
“And I think actually, for the world, I mean that’s the issue that trumps all the other issues,” Cummins said, “including the war in Iraq and the financial crisis.”
Much has been made this year about Colorado’s status as a swing state. As of Monday, the nonpartisan Cook Report had it listed as a toss-up.
The Roaring Fork Valley could be considered a microcosm of the state’s political divide: The majority in Pitkin County hasn’t voted for a Republican since Ronald Reagan, while Garfield County hasn’t voted for a Democratic president, with the exception of Bill Clinton, and during his first term only, since Lyndon Johnson.
Both counties have a particularly large number of unaffiliated voters: 44 percent in Pitkin County and 41 percent in Garfield County, according to statistics cited by the Rocky Mountain News. In short, both counties have a particularly large number of voters whose votes could swing.
An informal poll taken Monday by The Aspen Times found about an eighth of Roaring Fork Valley residents were still uncertain about their vote. But most had made up their minds, some more passionately than others.
The issues cited most often as deciding residents’ votes were: the economy, vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, President George Bush’s tenure, America’s reputation abroad and the need for a “new energy economy.” The war in Iraq barely garnered attention from voters the Times spoke with.
And at least one local voter was swayed by the recent debate. Connie Boatwright of Carbondale said she watched the debate and “went straight for Obama.”
“I was impressed by his answers on going after bin Laden,” she said. “Why were we in Iraq when [bin Ladin] was in Afghanistan?”
She also preferred Obama’s health care plan ” and his argument that everyone should have it ” to McCain’s idea to give tax cuts so Americans can buy health insurance.
Patrick Anderson, on the other hand, was one of a number of local residents who have long been convinced about their candidate of choice. Anderson had a lot to say about Obama while he waited for his tank to fill at the gas station in Glenwood Springs this weekend.
“I’m a carpenter,” he said. “It doesn’t do me any good for a Republican to be in office. And it never gets trickled down. If the rich get a big tax break, it never comes my way. That’s a load of crap.”
Connie Orcutt of Basalt was also certain about the Democratic nominee.
“One, because I’m an educator and I believe in public education,” she said. “Two, because I’m a woman, and we have some hard-fought choices and I don’t want those taken away. And three, I think we need more diplomacy in government, and we need to get the respect back in a world that we’ve lost in the last eight years.”
But not all voters are as passionate about their candidates.
First-time voter Gerald Lopez, who also discussed the matter while waiting for his gas tank to fill in Glenwood Springs, said he thought he was going to vote for McCain and Palin, but he couldn’t explain why.
“I just, I don’t know,” he said, shrugging his shoulders.
And a number of residents of the Roaring Fork Valley admitted they weren’t thrilled about their options.
Zia Hucks of Aspen ” also voting in the United States for the first time ” said she’s voting for Obama because “he’s the best out of a bad bunch.”
Bryan McCullogh of Paonia wasn’t sure who he was going to vote for, but he said he heard a lot of rumors about the Democratic candidate that had him worried.
“All the hunters are saying that he’s trying to take away gun laws, take away all our guns and stuff,” he said.
Those at his church have also encouraged McCullogh not to vote for Obama.
“I hear a lot of bad things about Obama and Hilary [at church], and I’m not really hearing anything good, so I don’t know,” he said.
And Ken Hartley of Glenwood Springs said he was casting a vote for the Democratic ticket because he thinks ultimately the vice presidential candidate will run the country, and he trusts Biden more than Palin.
“McCain’s going to die, and I don’t want Palin in there,” he said. “And I think Obama is going to get assassinated, so I think the worst of the two evils is Obama’s running mate … I would vote for [McCain] if he’d stay there, but I think he’s going to die.”
Hartley wasn’t the only person influenced by McCain’s pick for vice president.
“It just scares the s— out of me that something would happen to John McCain and Sarah Palin would become president. Not because she’s a woman ” because she’s loopy,” said Anderson.
On the other hand, Bierbaun thought Palin was a great addition to an already-strong ticket.
“Palin is a plus because she hunts and fishes,” he said. “You know her lack of experience is a little scary, but I believe she’s on the right track.”
And at least one voter in the Roaring Fork Valley is ready for this all to be over.
“I’m almost politicked out, to be honest with you,” said Glenwood Springs resident Todd Chesnut. He added that he’ll vote for Obama, if only to avoid four more years of “Bush-isms.”
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