State, youth caught in crossfire


Originally published in The Metropolitan. Sept. 18, 2008.

Alexis Grace is worried about the economy and gas prices. But she’s also worried about what kind of health care and education her 4-month-old baby, Caylix, will have. The 19-year-old, of Pueblo, said she pays $350 a month for health care for her family.

Her husband, Dillon Grace, also 19, said the insurance they already have isn’t that great. “It’s not good coverage,” he said Sept. 15, shortly after Sen. Barack Obama addressed a crowd of 5,000 at the State Fair Grounds. Baby on board, Dillon Grace said the family’s insurance limit is $1,500. “They just stop paying.”
Alexis Grace, who works in a doctor’s office, and Dillon Grace, who works as a server at the local Chili’s Grill & Bar, said they’ll be voting for Obama.

“He’s good for the people,” she said. “He’ll help send my child to college.”

Like thousands of other Coloradans, the Graces attended one of four political rallies held in the state during the week of Sept. 15. The Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama had events in Grand Junction, Pueblo and Golden. GOP vice-presidential nominee Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin also addressed a crowd of 5,000 supporters Sept. 15, at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds.

As Election Day draws closer, Colorado’s role in the 2008 election is becoming increasingly clear — or not. Considered one of the most highly contested battlegrounds, along with New Mexico and Nevada, the state will see an influx of politicos.

“I expect to see a lot of Senator John McCain and Governor Sarah Palin between now and the election,” Tom Kise, a McCain spokesman said. “The senator said it himself: ‘Colorado is a must-win state.'”

Jefferson County field organizer for the Obama campaign, Erin Ramsey, echoed Kise at the Colorado School of Mines where Obama spoke Sept. 16. Speaking before Obama, Ramsey said, “we know all eyes are on Colorado. And let’s be real, all eyes are on Jeffco.”

The county is being considered a “swing county” by both campaigns. The neighborhoods have a large number of independent voters who could make or break the election.

Besides the already lucrative independent vote, Colorado has seen a huge registration increase with first time voters and young — or college age — voters. The same has been seen nationwide and has been widely attributed to Obama.

However, since being added to the ticket, Palin has become sort of a darling to the GOP. And has been credited for revitalizing the McCain campaign and attracting young and undecided voters.

Sarah Provo, 22, of Colorado Christian University, is one of them.

“We want to hear both sides,” Provo said. She and friends Megan Geary, 20, and Lindsey Settle, 20, attended the Palin event. “It’ll help me decide if I hear them both speak.”

Others like Samantha Tucker, 24, of Fountain, have already made up their mind. “Barack Obama’s campaign is very close to my heart,” she said. “My brother died in Iraq in April.”

Tucker said it’s Obama’s message of hope that won her vote. “McCain is a good man, but I don’t want what happened to my brother to happen to anyone else,” she said.

Countering Tucker, Becky Richardson, 27, thinks Palin has the bipartisanship needed to help the country, but can hold her ground.

“I like the fact that she stands for what she believes in,” she said.

Troy Widener and Gina Ross, both 22 and Mines students, continue the debate.

Widener, an Obama supporter, said Palin — a heartbeat away from the Oval Office — isn’t ready. “She was the mayor of a town of 3,000. If McCain dies during his first term, we’ll have a president who has no idea what she’s doing.”

But Ross said it’s Obama who isn’t prepared. “I don’t like Obama,” she said. “I think he fools people with his speeches. I don’t think his policies will do anything.”

While the two couldn’t agree on a candidate, both said the campus nestled in Jefferson County was more conservative than other Colorado campuses.

The campus is known for its engineering students, and as people lined up to see Obama, about six of those students — with an emphasis in petroleum — gathered to protest the Democrat. “They want money,” Widener said.

Mike Patterson, 22, said he was protesting Obama’s campaign on behalf of his field.

“I don’t agree with Obama,” he said. “And McCain is supporting our industry.”

Across the state — and nation — people are once again divided.

As GOP spokesman Kise said, the voters are judging the candidates and policies side by side and all the polls are neck-and-neck.

Red, blue. Today, tomorrow.

The one-day oilman, Patterson, is solid on his choice: McCain. Being independent of oil – like Obama promises – isn’t a realistic option. “Going to wind energy isn’t going to solve everything,” he said. And don’t even get him started on taxes. “People on welfare are looking forward to the wealthy getting taxed more.”

And in Pueblo, the Graces stand firm with Obama. “He’s for the working class,” Alexis Grace said. “We’re working class.”

“It’s about the future,” she said. “I’m voting for my son. He has a lot to offer.”

— Dominic Graziano contributed to this report.


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