Feb 052007
Authors: J. David McSwane

The announcement last month that Denver will host the 2008 Democratic National Convention sent a wave of excitement throughout the West. And some local politicians and analysts are anxious to be thrown into the vortex of a Democratic takeover – of the state that is.

“The circus is coming to town,” said Bill Chaloupka, CSU political science chair.

For political junkies like Chaloupka, the convention is a kid’s proverbial candy store.

“Others are interested in the Academy Awards,” he said, laughing. “Frankly, I’m more interested in meeting famous political leaders and writers.”

“I think it will be a great show,” he added.

The convention will be held at the Pepsi Center in August and is expected to bring an estimated 35,000 delegates and journalists to the city. Denver, which has not held the convention in 100 years, fought hard for the spot, contending lastly with New York City.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean credited the victorious bid to a changing political climate in the West.

“There is no question that the West is important to the future of the Democratic Party. we have a number of strong Democratic leaders in the West who will be a part of showcasing the vision of Democratic leadership for America as we introduce the next Democratic president in the Rocky Mountains,” Dean said in a statement.

Chaloupka argues, however, that although the announcement means a good time for Denver and his pundit colleagues, the ceremony itself might mean less for the party than some assert.

“Conventions have changed over the decades,” he said. “And the convention serves a different purpose than they once did.”

Both parties will have already chosen their presidential and congressional candidates through the primaries and caucuses, he said. But even though the convention is more symbolic than anything else, it still serves the party and Colorado.

“It’s an important event.It’s an opportunity for the Democrats to present their candidate to a national audience,” Chaloupka said.

Angie Paccione, a former Democratic congressional candidate and future contender, says the arrival of her party and the press could give her just the push she’s looking for.

“We’ve got a Democratic resurgence in the West, and I think Colorado’s leading it,” Paccione told the Collegian last week. “It does make it more palatable for me to run again.”

Paccione is now within ample striking distance for the 4th Congressional District seat – which has been clinched by the Republicans since 1972 – after she lost by a narrow margin to Republican incumbent Marilyn Musgrave last fall.

According to the Colorado Cumulative Report, Paccione fell only 6,000 votes shy of Musgrave’s 46 percent majority vote. If the new Democrat-controlled Congress proves successful through the next election season, with the hype of the convention 6,000 votes could be a modest increase.

“I think if it’s a head-to-head, I can win,” she said.

But calling it “a head-to-head” could be jumping the gun, considering the effect Colorado Reform candidate Eric Eidsness had on the race last November, nabbing 11 percent of the vote.

And the former Republican is ready to rumble.

“I think with the relatively good success I had this last run.that told me that people saw something in me they liked,” he said.

Although stealing 11 percent from the two mainstream parties is quite an accomplishment, Eidsness said, it’s time to bring that support to a traditional party.

“The question is what party can I run with and do the most for the 4th district,” he said. “I don’t want to run as a minor party candidate.”

Taking the changing political climate in the nation and the West into account, Eidsness asks:

“What American wouldn’t want the Democrats in the case to be successful?”

Although he is not ready to claim a party affiliation just yet, Eidsness says a conservative Democrat may be just what the historically Republican district is looking for.

“I have not had a single Republican reach out to me,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of Democrats, and I’m paying attention to that.”

Chaloupka agrees the gathering of support could help a Democratic candidate but says it’s too quick to jump to any conclusions, adding that the Democrats will likely be more concerned with the Senate race after Colorado Sen. Wayne Allard’s announcement that he will not seek another term.

“The incumbents are hard to beat,” he said. “It’s way too soon to tell.”

Campaigning aside, Paccione says she is “extremely excited” for the arrival of prominent leaders of her party.

But Eidsness doesn’t share the sentiment, saying, “The bigwigs. that doesn’t impress me. I’ve seen the center of power, and they’re not different than us.”

According to the City of Denver, the convention will bring in an estimated $150 million to $200 million to the state capital. But Democratic State Rep. John Kefalas of Fort Collins says he is also looking for a boom in interest.

“I am very excited.it will further put Colorado on the map politically,” he said. “It’s just good for Colorado.”

Kefalas also says the convention should bring excitement not just to politicians, but also the little guys.

“I’m hoping that CSU students will participate,” Kefalas told the Collegian last week. “I think it will energize and motivate (students) to get involved in electoral politics.”

CSU Young Democrats President Ellen Steiner agrees.

“I think there’s always a need for youth participation,” the senior social work major said. “Hopefully, this will ignite some participation in both Democrats and Republicans.”

But for moderate students like sophomore sociology major Jonny Hill, there isn’t much reason to get involved.

“I think it’s cool that Denver’s getting publicity,” he said. “It doesn’t really affect me. I’m not even going to be in Denver for it.”

There is no doubt Colorado, along with its Western neighbors, has found itself at the epicenter of change in national politics, for better or worse. And as presidential hopefuls, campaign coordinators and other henchmen climb their way to the Mile High City, many Coloradoans, Democrat or not, bask in anticipation.

“I’ve already heard some of my colleagues trying to get a pass,” Chaloupka said. “I’ll be there.”

Associate news managing editor J. David McSwane can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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