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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Wednesday, July 28, 2004


Convention inspires Idaho Dems

Carter, Clinton and Gore open national convention in Boston

For the Mountain Express

BOSTON—Early Monday morning a Fleet Center employee banged a guardrail in place with his hammer, the hallow metallic sounds echoing through the almost empty Democratic National Convention Hall. Clusters of red, white and blue balloons hung high up in the rafters, strung like grapes growing bunched on a vine, waiting to rain down upon a jubilant Thursday night crowd celebrating Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry’s official anointment as leader of the Democratic Party.

Nestled part way up the arena’s first tier sits the Idaho delegation section, which as the day moved on filled up with excited Idahoans eager to represent their state.

"I’m really excited by this election," said Idaho House Minority Leader Wendy Jaquet, of Ketchum, who’s proved to be an infectious enthusiast and the delegation’s unifying catalyst throughout the night. "I think we have a chance, I know we can win this".

In an effort to define Idaho’s issues most important to its citizenry, Grant Burgoyne, a Boise attorney, highlighted foreign policy, specifically the recent call up of large numbers of Idaho National Guardsmen, and the sluggish economy. Other concerns most often mentioned by delegates were the struggling health care and education systems. However, the prospect of U.S administrative change and renewed opportunity inspired hopeful tones.

Still billed as a straight ticket, dead red state, an important shift in political ideology in Idaho in recent years is growing daily, according to some delegates. Their hope is that this election will mark a new era in which Western states traditionally designated as conservative Republican can no longer be counted as safe states by the GOP. Several Fleet Center employees, volunteers as well as delegates from other states wondered aloud, "Idaho has Democrats?" as they stumbled into the remote Idaho section tucked away off to the right of the stage.

"I don’t think the convention itself is going to create the kind of surge that we need to change Idaho from a red state to a blue state," speculated another delegate, Mark EchoHawk, son of former Idaho State Attorney General Larry EchoHawk. "I think that what we need for some of the citizens in Idaho is for them to open their ears and pay attention to the issues."

Former President Jimmy Carter and Vice President Al Gore, among others, fervently advocated the Kerry-Edwards ticket and the audience listened steadfast. Jaquet waved her sign high in the air through a shifting sea of blue and white spotlights, and the Idaho delegates followed suit, chiming in with thousands of others in roaring their approval.

As the week unfolds toward its climatic balloon shower finish, what will the 2004 Democratic National Convention’s greater impact be? "Something from the convention that I’m really looking forward to is, purely, unity," said Idaho native and college student Gariety Pruitt. "People looking for a change and making it, saying in one voice this is what we want and this is our nominee."

Many at the convention said America’s newly fashioned Democratic Party is slowly taking shape here this week in Boston.

Bill Clinton, the first night’s keynote speaker, strolled on stage, introduced by his wife and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton. He then went on to truly dazzle an expecting audience with his confidence, intellect and honesty. It proved to be a rousing end to the first night’s show. Goose bumps seemingly rippled in waves down the spines of thickets of admiring delegates who chanted and cheered.

"I feel that I’ve been empowered to up my energy level," Jaquet said, smiling. "We want to take the country forward, and we want to take the whole country forward, not just a select few."

She added that hopefully in the coming weeks and months, some of this energy and confidence will somehow slide its way along the country’s interstates all the way back to Idaho.


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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.