Exhilaration at Dem convention

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Mike Smith considers himself one of the lucky ones.

After four days of hoopla and celebration at the Democratic National Convention in Boston, Smith, a Steamboat Springs resident and public school teacher, still had his voice.

"A lot of people are getting hoarse around here," Smith said Thursday, the culminating day of the convention. "The energy in the convention hall is just incredible."

For Smith, one of 63 Colorado delegates, the event has been simultaneously exhausting and exhilarating. The convention ended Thursday evening with a speech from Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry.

Each day began at 7:30 a.m. with breakfast and a slate of high-profile Democratic speakers. Thursday's lineup included former secretary of state Madeline Albright, Sen. Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle.

Caucuses and other meetings took up the bulk of the day, followed by the nationally televised speeches each evening. On Wednesday, Smith attended a caucus focused on increasing voter turnout in rural areas. He also participated in numerous education caucuses.

"It's an exhausting process," Smith said. "I've averaged about three hours of sleep a night -- and I've only been to one of the parties. What you see on television is far less than what's going on."

Thirteen of Colorado's delegates made news Wednesday by voting to nominate Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich for president. Those 13 votes were more than Kucinich received from any other state. Earlier this week Kucinich urged his supporters to unite behind Kerry.

"We have some really dedicated Kucinich delegates here," said Smith, who cast his vote for Kerry. "They debated long and hard on how to vote."

Ultimately, those delegates felt it was important to represent their peers in Colorado.

"They really made a commitment to their supporters," Smith said.

However, those delegates addressed the entire state contingent Thursday morning to vow full support for Kerry and his running mate, Sen. John Edwards, in the weeks and months leading to November's general election.

"I think people are very excited about the ticket," Smith said. One of the concerns many Democrats had about Kerry is that they didn't feel they know who he is.

The party convention has washed away many of those concerns, Smith said, particularly because many people close to Kerry and his work have had the opportunity to speak about their experiences with him to other Democrats.

As for the scene in and around Boston's FleetCenter, the site of the convention, Smith said security has been exceptional and protests minimal.

"I've never felt not safe," Smith said. "The police have been marvelous and the people of Boston have just been wonderful."

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234 or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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