5/16/08

Labor-state's union operatives gather in Denver

Colorado Springs prepares for influx

El Paso County: Brace yourself. About 10,000 Democrats will converge this weekend in Colorado Springs for what is being billed as the largest gathering of Democrats in state history. "It is kind of indescribable," said Pat Waak, chairwoman of the Colorado Democratic Party. The party is holding its assembly and state convention in the heart of Republican territory.

Conventioneers will elect the final delegates to attend the Democratic National Convention in Denver in August.

And assemblygoers will nominate candidates, including Mark Udall for the U.S. Senate.

Udall is running uncontested, so there's no drama in the Senate race like there was in 2004 when underdog Mike Miles bested Ken Salazar to get the top ballot position.

The focus at this gathering will be the record turnout of Democrats - many of them first-timers to the caucus and convention process - to throw their support for Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton to be their party's nominee for president.

At the convention Saturday, about 1,500 people are running for 12 delegate and two alternate slots to the DNC.

"I love the enthusiasm and the excitement," Waak said. "Colorado is a battleground state. When is the last time that happened?"

Three congressional districts are holding their assembly/conventions today at the Doubletree Hotel. They will nominate state Senate and district attorney candidates, and pick delegates to the DNC.

Saturday's events - including Udall's nomination - will be at the World Arena.

"This is really exciting for a lot of Democrats," said Mike Schnobrich of Penrose, chairman of the 5th Congressional District event. "But it's also a lot of work."

The record turnout has created stress on organizers ever since Feb. 5, when nearly 121,000 Democrats showed up for their precinct caucuses.

In past presidential years, 15,000 to 25,000 Democrats participated.

There aren't enough parking spaces at the World Arena for everyone scheduled to show up, said Waak. Delegates are being asked to take hotel shuttles to the World Arena.

"That's part of the price you pay for success," Waak said.

(rockymountainnews.com)

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