Kerry stumps in Aspen |

Kerry stumps in Aspen

Author Hunter S. Thompson, left, is escorted out of the motorcade car of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., at Aspen-Pitkin Co./Sardy Field Airport in Aspen, Colo. on Monday, June 21, 2004. Thompson accompanied Kerry on his visit in Aspen. The man at right is unidentified. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Not even a presidential candidate can escape flight delays on a trip to Aspen.Arriving an hour late, Democratic hopeful John Kerry spoke to a packed crowd Monday at an invitation-only, $500,000 fund-raiser at the Red Mountain home of Michael Goldberg, president of the Miami-based airline leasing company Aerolease International.Kerry flew into soggy Sardy Field on a private jet, where he was greeted by a contingent of local elected officials and party faithfuls. He also chatted briefly with a handful of onlookers who gathered in the rain outside the chain-link fence at Sardy Field.”I was the one who yelled at him. I said, ‘Hey John,’ and he started walking over to us,” said longtime Aspenite Dave Panico, who was in the group beyond the fence. “I was in shock. What a trip.

“I just said, ‘You gotta win, man.'”Several in the meet-and-greet line on the tarmac thanked the Massachusetts senator for seeking the presidency; Aspen City Councilwoman Rachel Richards said she used the opportunity to express her concern about the erosion of women’s reproductive rights under the Bush administration.Kerry invited Woody Creek writer/journalist Hunter S. Thompson to ride in his motorcade to the Goldberg home and brought three copies of Thompson’s book about the 1972 presidential race, “Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail.””Just to put your minds all at ease, I have four words for you that I know will relieve you greatly,” Kerry told the fund-raiser crowd. “How does this sound – Vice President Hunter Thompson.”

The senator spoke for about 30 minutes to an enthusiastic, packed house and then answered questions for another 15 minutes or so, said local businessman Harley Baldwin, an attendee at the gathering. The crowd opened its wallets, he said.”The Democrats are completely fired up,” Baldwin said. “I think the greatest fund-raiser in the Democratic Party is George W. Bush.”Kerry’s remarks touched on the war in Iraq and the economy. The biggest roar of approval from the audience came in response to Kerry’s call for the re-separation of church and state, Baldwin said.Kerry’s local visit was followed by appearances in Denver before he headed for Albuquerque, N.M., last night.

His tight schedule precluded face time with the general populace in Aspen yesterday. But Camilla Auger, chairwoman of the Pitkin County Democratic Party, predicted the public would get a chance to see Kerry in Aspen before the November election.Aspen Mayor Helen Klanderud, who had a prior commitment that kept her from the airport, lamented the limited audience that had access to the candidate yesterday.”I understand the need to raise money,” she said. “It would be nice, if when they come, there was an event where people who can’t afford that can go.”The Associated Press contributed to this report. Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is

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