RIDGWAY – The Colorado Democratic Party arrived in Ridgway big-time last Saturday morning, bearing news that the Obama campaign intends to open up a field office in town.
The office, slated to open sometime this week, will be located in the upstairs portion of the same building that houses Cimarron Books and Coffee – the unofficial Ouray County Democratic headquarters.
It was here in a backroom, over steaming cups of strong coffee, that Colorado Democratic Party Chair Rick Palacio gathered with the local party faithful to share what he has been noticing around the state during this election season.
One of the highest-stakes races for Coloradans this year is the one between Sal Pace and Republican Congressman Scott Tipton. Pace, a Democrat, seeks to unseat Tipton to gain a foothold in the U.S. House of Representatives.
But this year, Palacio said, there is much more at stake. Colorado could for the first time play an important role in determining the outcome of the presidential election.
“If we don’t turn out to vote, then we are going to lose,” he said. “I would not doubt if this election came down to 2,000 or 3,000 votes for the President.
“I think this is the most important election of our lifetime,” Palacio went on, pointing out that whoever is elected president will likely appoint Supreme Court justices who will hear challenges on such matters as same-sex marriage, marriage equality and Roe vs. Wade.
“Ouray County, while small, could be the 2,000 votes we need to push us over the edge,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how big or small the town is. This is going to come down to one or two votes in every precinct across the state.”
One advantage Democrats have in Colorado is their solid ground game. Currently, the Obama campaign has 59 field offices across the state. The office in Ridgway will make 60. That’s more than in Florida, which has three times the electoral votes.
“We have 400 paid canvassers, and thousands and thousands of volunteers,” he said. “We have offices in big cities and the smallest towns we can imagine; we have an office in Fairplay, if that says something about how seriously we are taking this race.”
There was a general feeling of dismay, and some venting among the folks who had gathered for the meeting with Palacio, about the degree of polarization that is taking place in this election, both locally and in the state and national political arenas.
One woman confided that she attended the Republican picnic in Colona last summer, just to force herself to recognize the folks in the other camp as fellow human beings.
“Some people told me, ‘I’m not as brave as you are,’” she said. “It’s important to make those connections so that when you have political differences you can still see people as human...It was a good picnic.”
“Most people don’t live by the ‘D’ or the ‘R’,” Palacio acknowledged. “But I am the chair of the Democratic Party in Colorado; there is not any doubt that I am partisan.”
Before climbing back into his big RV to rally more troops down the road, Palacio handed over a special gift to Priscilla Peters, the proprietress of Cimarron Books and Coffee, and Ouray County’s Democratic doyenne.
It was a brand new Etch A Sketch, still in its box, signed by U.S. Senator Michael Bennet. Peters received the gift with delight.