Presidential race a tossup in county

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With more people attending local Republican and Democrat meetings and others remaining politically undecided, the run for president between Republican George W. Bush and Democratic nominee John Kerry appears to be as tight in Routt County as elsewhere in the nation.

Based on voting history in the county, which shows strong support for both parties in various presidential elections, the end result of November's election is hard to predict, said Routt County clerk and recorder Kay Weinland.

"I think people look at the candidates and their stance on issues rather than straight party line tickets," she said.

The gap between area voters choosing Democrat and Republican candidates has narrowed considerably since 1994, when 830 votes separated George H. Bush from winner Bill Clinton. In 2000, George W. Bush came out on top over Democrat Al Gore by 264 votes, according Routt County records.

Despite a close 2000 election, however, Routt County Republicans chairman Harmon "Buck" Buckland expects residents' concerns about terrorism, U.S. security and tax laws will propel President Bush to victory.

"I'm very optimistic. ... I think he is trying to do the best for our country," he said. "As far as a person, he is truthful. He's not trying to pull the wool over our eyes."

Based on increased participation in meetings and discussions with residents, Buckland said support for the Republican Party is stronger than several years ago.

But the same could be true for the Democrats, who have seen attendance at Routt County Democrats meetings jump from the usual two or three people to 25 to 30 in the past several months, chairman Ken Brenner said.

Driving Kerry support are residents' concerns about the war in Iraq and fears that the United States wasn't prepared to invade the country and is not prepared to stay, Brenner said.

"As a generalization, we're very disenchanted with the effort that has taken place, and people are worried that there is more to follow: a war with Iran, Syria or a national draft," he said.

Concerns about increased oil and gas drilling and the national deficit also are contributing to more Democratic support in Routt County, Brenner said.

But voters such as Nina Rogers question whether some voters will vote for Kerry because they believe in him or because they are afraid that Bush will remain in office.

Rogers, who was a delegate at Democrat Dennis Kucinich's state convention, is among Routt County residents who formerly were registered as independents or with third parties but registered as Democrats this year to vote in the primaries.

Disheartened by the finger pointing between Bush and Kerry, Rogers isn't sure which way she'll vote.

"If I feel like it's the least bit safe to do so, I'm going to vote for a Green Party candidate," she said.

Routt County voters intent on not voting for Kerry or Bush may choose from 10 other candidates, emphasizing almost everything from gun control to workers' rights, on the Colorado presidential ballot.

A Denver judge's decision earlier this month means familiar third party candidate Ralph Nader will be on the ballot again. It will be the liberal activist and attorney's fourth run for president.

Unlike the past two general elections, Nader did not seek the Green Party's nomination but instead decided to run as an Independent. In May, Nader received the Reform Party's endorsement and nomination, ensuring that he got on the ballot in several states including Colorado.

The Democratic Party argued in a lawsuit that he had not been affiliated with the Reform Party for the required year before the nomination. Denver District Judge John McMullen, however, said the problem was not serious enough to kick Nader off the ballot.

Nader has been highly criticized for his decision to run again this year after being accused of stealing votes from Democratic nominee Al Gore in 2000 and possibly influencing the outcome of the election.

Emphasizing an anti-corporate campaign message, Nader got on the ballot in 44 states in 2000, ending up in third place after the election with more than 2.5 million votes.

Nader also was the third most favored candidate in Routt County, where he garnered about 8 percent of the vote. That was a vast improvement over 1996 when he received less than 2 percent of the vote, placing fourth behind then-Reform Party candidate Ross Perot, according to Routt County voting records.

Nader and running mate Peter Miguel Camejo's ballot status has been confirmed in 31 states. Court cases are determining whether Nader will be on the ballot in 13 other states, according to the campaign's Web site, www.votenader.org.

David Cobb, a coordinator for Nader's 2000 campaign in Texas, is the Green Party's nomination for the 2004 presidential election. Cobb was a public interest attorney for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund in Texas before launching his presidential campaign in 2003.

He is running on a similar anti-corporate, pro-environment platform as Nader, however, Cobb is pursuing a "Safe States" strategy, focusing his campaign only in states where he will not endanger a Democratic national victory over President Bush.

Libertarian candidate Michael Badnarik of Texas is using his candidacy to promote his pro-gun rights and anti-Iraq War views. The self-employed computer consultant and skydiving instructor staunchly opposes government intrusion into citizen's lives.

Attorney and social conservative activist Michael Peroutka of Maryland is the Constitution Party's presidential nominee. Founder of the American College for Cultural Studies, a biblical-constitutionalist education program, Peroutka has a long record of arguing on behalf of pro-life and pro-gun rights causes.

Gene Amondson, an anti-alcohol minister and landscape artist, is the nominee for the small Concerns of People Party in Colorado. The Prohibition Party nominated Amondson as its candidate earlier this year, but longtime Prohibition presidential candidate Earl Dodge refused to recognize the nomination and ran on the same ticket in Colorado.

To avoid a court dispute about the official Prohibition candidate, the Concerned People Party offered their nomination to Amondson.

This will be the eighth time since 1976 that Dodge runs for president on the Prohibition Party's national ticket.

Colorado voters also will see candidates representing three socialist-related parties. Formerly a Democratic senator for Oregon, Walter Brown is the Socialist Party's nominee for president.

The Socialist Party, which is considered the least extreme of the various socialist parties, was a strong third party in the first half of the 20th century, electing congressmen, mayors and other officials. Brown and his party advocate left-wing electoral change.

Known as the Worker's League until 1994, the Socialist Equality Party has nominated longtime party member Bill Van Auken to spread the party's anti-war message and to defend workers' interests.

Professional political organizer James Harris of Georgia is the presidential nominee for the Socialist Worker's Party, which argues that capitalism is the cause of workers' problems.

Military veteran Stanford Andress of Colorado, running unaffiliated, rounds out the presidential candidates on the state ballot. Andress was a 2002 write-in candidate for Congress.

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