|10-04-2006, 08:48 PM||#1|
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Elway was just an arm =MacGruder
From Red to Blue ...... Mountian States no longer fall for the Bull****
San Francisco Chronicle
RED WEST SHIFTING TO BLUE
Republicans' grip is loosening in the mountain states, giving moderate Democrats a chance to move in
Marc Sandalow, Washington Bureau Chief
Sunday, October 1, 2006
Gunning For Votes Out West. Chronicle Graphic
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(10-01) 04:00 PDT Grand Junction, Colo. -- It was not many years ago that you could drive 1,000 miles east from the Bay Area without running into a Democratic officeholder.
The Mountain West, with its open space and rugged landscape, was as reliably Republican as any region in the country, delivering the party's presidential candidates a huge electoral vote advantage, and providing the GOP its base in Congress.
But the Republicans are losing their firm grip on the West.
Montana, Arizona, New Mexico and Wyoming have Democratic governors. The U.S. Senate Democratic leader is from Nevada. Democrats took control of both houses of the Colorado Legislature in 2004 for the first time in more than 40 years, and now control at least one chamber in half the Mountain West states. Salt Lake City has a liberal mayor.
Here on the western slope of the Colorado Rockies, conservative voters are represented by a Democrat in the state Assembly, a Democrat in Congress, and perhaps soon by a Democratic governor.
As Democrats on the coasts work to capture majorities in the House and Senate, expand control of statehouses, and win back the White House in 2008, they are increasingly looking to the interior West as fertile ground for unseating Republicans.
By embracing more conservative candidates -- some oppose abortion rights and most are pro-gun -- Democrats hope that victories in the West can rebalance a national political map that has skewed against them since they lost the South decades ago.
By investing in conservative strongholds such as Grand Junction, where this year the Daily Sentinel newspaper has endorsed more Democrats than Republicans, Democrats see a chance to take advantage of disenchantment over the GOP's social conservatism and win elections in a part of the country that has long been regarded as outside their grasp.
"The South will return to the Democratic Party only when economic downturn requires it,'' former Colorado Democratic Sen. Gary Hart wrote in a memo to Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean last summer.
"The West provides the Democratic Party's greatest opportunity and represents its greatest future. National party leaders must develop a plan to win the West in the early 21st century, or risk settling into minority status for many years to come.''
The opportunity in the West is among the reasons that the party recently scheduled a presidential caucus in Nevada to be held a week before the New Hampshire primary in 2008, and Denver is among two finalists to play host to the party's 2008 presidential nominating convention.
"Our whole theory is that the Democrats have to come out West if they want to win a national election,'' said Steve Farber, an influential Denver attorney who is co-chairman of the city's convention host committee.
Democrats in the nation's capital are paying attention. Dean, the quintessential button-down Yankee, has made a dozen trips to the Mountain states over the past year.
Republicans now hold 20 of the 28 congressional seats and 12 of the 16 Senate seats. Democratic parity in the West alone would shrink the GOP's majority by 40 percent in the House and 80 percent in the Senate. This November, as many as 9 of the most competitive 50 House races are in the Mountain West. Democrats also have a chance to add two governors and a senator from the region.
On a presidential level, many Democrats lamented in 2004 that a switch of only 60,000 votes in Ohio would have given Democratic Sen. John Kerry 20 additional electoral votes and the presidency. As author Ryan Sager points out in his book "Elephant in the Room,'' a swing of 60,000 votes in Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico would have accomplished the same thing.
"There are moments that come along in the history of this country where there's a realignment of parties,'' Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer said in an interview.
Such advances come at the expense of an ideological purity that some Democrats on the coasts would prefer. Candidates in the interior West are far more conservative than their coastal counterparts, and part of their recent success has come from proudly declaring their independence from the coastal liberals.
"Nobody sent me a playbook from the East or West Coast and said this is what you need to do to be a Democrat,'' said Schweitzer, who boasts: "I've got more guns than I need, and fewer than I want.''
Bill Ritter, the Democrat favored to win the governorship in Colorado, opposes legalized abortions, as does U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. Democratic Rep. John Salazar, who represents Grand Junction, co-sponsored a measure to allow gun owners to carry concealed weapons and opposed renewal of the assault weapons ban.
"The candidates who run in the Bay Area would have to run as Green Party members out here,'' said Tarrah Henrie, vice chairwoman of the Mesa County Democratic Party, who moved recently from the South Bay. "But the Democrats here fit the district. And they can win.''
Seven-hundred-fifty miles north of Grand Junction, Schweitzer -- the blue jean-, cowboy boot-, bolo tie-wearing governor of Montana -- is a prototype of what some believe is the future for the Democrats in the West.
Schweitzer said he came to realize that Montanans were perfectly willing to vote for a pro-choice, pro-environment candidate who talked about expanding health care so long as he communicated such ideas while he sat on a horse. Preferably with a gun in his hand.
"I don't use language that makes me sound like I'm highfalutin or condescending,'' Schweitzer said in an interview, saying that Republicans provided his party an opening in the Mountain States by being aloof, pro-development and unwilling to defend the West's natural resources.
"The folks who like to have guns and like to drink beer by the six-pack, they're thinking, 'I'm not supporting those kind of Republicans. What do the Democrats have to say?'
"And my response was 'here we are.' Yep, we like guns. We're glad you have some, because we have some, too. We like to fish and hunt. We're going to maintain your right to access that public land.''
The environmental issue has worked for Western Democrats, although it is not the Sierra Club version familiar to Californians. The federal government owns huge tracts of land in the West, and residents depend on the federal dollars that support it, and the income that comes from exploiting the resources. The Endangered Species Act is frowned upon, even if residents don't favor its repeal. Many are simultaneously resentful of government efforts to restrict their use of the land and of private industries' attempts to destroy it.
"The (Bush) administration is pushing to develop our natural resources as fast as they can,'' Rep. Salazar said in an interview. "I'm in favor of developing our resources, but let's do it in a responsible way. I have people on both (political) extremes mad at me, but like most of the people in my district, I'm somewhere in the middle.''
Such an approach worked for Salazar, who won in a district that voted for Bush in 2004, and for Schweitzer in Montana, who outpolled Democratic presidential nominee Kerry by 20 percentage points.
Some of the Democratic gains in the West can be attributed to the same national trends that endanger the GOP's hold on Congress this year. Bush, who won all eight states in 2000 and 2004 -- with the exception of a 500-vote loss to Al Gore in New Mexico -- is losing popularity. Anger over the war in Iraq and frustration over one-party rule are tempering Republican prospects.
But those who study the West say something more profound and perhaps more lasting is taking place.
As Republicans took control of the South in the decades following the civil rights battle, the party has increasingly embraced socially conservative issues that have far less appeal in the West, analysts say. The GOP's emphasis on banning abortions and same-sex marriage, and promoting prayer in schools do not play so well in the more libertarian West.
Colorado, Nevada and Montana have adopted medicinal-marijuana laws, and Nevada has a measure on the November ballot that would legalize possession of up to an ounce.
"There's a leave-us-alone mentality in the West. For years, the Republicans have had a monopoly on the leave-us-alone voters. But that's changing,'' said Kari Chisholm, a political strategist who started the Western Democrat Web site (www.westerndemocrat.com) two years ago.
"Republicanism in the West is marked by a more libertarian ethic than evangelicals in the Bible Belt,'' said George Orbanek, publisher of the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.
And, he added, big federal deficits, the expansion of Medicare, and the expanded government authority contained in the Patriot Act have turned off some Republicans.
There also are demographic changes that favor Democrats.
The West is the nation's fastest-growing region, and millions of transplants from more Democratic states like California are changing the character and the political composition of the states.
"When I got here in 1946, it was just a bunch of cowboys,'' said Les Armbruster, the 83-year-old proprietor of Greenfield's Downtown Mart & Souvenir Shoppe on Grand Junction's Main Street.
"Sometimes I don't recognize these people. We don't really want the liberals from the East and the West,'' said Armbruster, whose store is across the street from a new sushi restaurant.
Among the changes most beneficial to Democrats is the dramatic rise in the number of minorities, particularly Latinos, who have transformed what used to be among the whitest states in the nation. And the biggest cities of the Mountain West, such as Phoenix and Denver, have grown faster than the rest of the country.
After years of being overlooked by the bosses on the coasts, Western Democrats are now able to make the case that their success might provide a path to re-establish the party's national majorities.
Montana Democrat Jon Tester, who is running ahead of incumbent Republican Conrad Burns in one of the country's closest U.S. Senate races, articulates the new Western strut in a recent TV ad.
"I may not look like a lot of other senators,'' the oversize candidate says, rubbing his flat-top crew cut. "But isn't it time the Senate looked a little bit more like Montana?''
Gunning for votes out West
Democrats believe they are gaining strength in the Mountain West and see the region as a crucial area in the party's quest to regain majorities in Congress and win back the White House. -- Utah
The most Republican state in six of the past eight presidential elections, one of the state’s three congressmen is a Democrat, as is the mayor of Salt Lake City, Rocky Anderson, who recently responded to criticism of his anti-war stance by asserting that a patriot does not “show slavish, blind obedience and deference to a dishonest, warmongering, humanrights-violating president.’’
Democrats control the state Assembly, Sen. Harry Reid is the Democratic leader in the U.S. Senate, and party officials plan to hold a 2008 presidential caucus here the week before the New Hampshire primary.
The home of Barry Goldwater has elected Democratic governors in four of the past eight elections, including sitting Gov. Janet Napolitano, who is expected to win re-election. Democrats have a chance to pick up the congressional seat held by retiring Republican Rep. Jim Kolbe.
-- New Mexico
Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson is regarded as a strong favorite for re-election in November, and a potential presidential candidate in 2008. Democrats control both chambers in the state Legislature, and have a chance to defeat four-term Republican Rep. Heather Wilson. George W. Bush won by 5,988 votes in the 2004 presidential election. Al Gore won by 365 votes in 2000.
Democrats took control of both houses of the state Legislature in 2004 for the first time in more than 40 years. Polls show Democrat Bill Ritter ahead of Republican Rep. Bob Beauprez in an open governor’s race, and the Democrat is running even in the congressional seat outside of Denver being vacated by Beauprez.
Vice President Dick Cheney’s home state has voted for Democratic governors in six of the past eight elections, including the current Gov. Dave Freudenthal who is favored to win re-election in November. Polls show Democrats with a chance to unseat six-term Republican Rep. Barbara Cubin.
GOP Sen. Conrad Burns is among this year’s most endangered incumbents. Democrats control the state Legislature and four of the five elected statewide offices, including the governorship. “I’ve got more guns than I need, and fewer than I want,’’ said Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer. “You can be a Democrat that likes guns and God, too.’’
Democrats have a shot at winning their first congressional race in 14 years.
Source: ESRI, TeleAtlas; Photos all AP except Napolitano, Business Wire, and Freudenthal, Official Governor Press Photo
E-mail Marc Sandalow at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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|10-04-2006, 08:54 PM||#2|
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Elway was just an arm =MacGruder
Gov Dave of Wyoming has done a Kick ass Job , he has with stood attack after attack from Drake Hill , Eli Bebout , now Hunkins , and gov Dave keeps winning , He is a moderate Democrat , much like Ed Schultz ...... Hard , kick ass take names ...........