Local Democrats celebrate Obama win, voter turnout | SteamboatToday.com

Local Democrats celebrate Obama win, voter turnout

Steamboat Springs Obama supporter Babette Dickson watches televised election coverage Tuesday night at Big House Burgers in Steamboat Springs.

— A large crowd of Democratic Party supporters welcomed a huge victory Tuesday night, as a jam-packed Steamboat Springs watch party became uproarious when the news of Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential victory was announced.

Still, it was small and often personal victories that first came to mind for many of those packed into the party at Big House Burgers. Obama’s most ardent area supporters – some gathered together in a corner of the restaurant, trading stories, french fries and high fives as a blue tidal wave swept across the country – said they took pride in helping get voters to the polls and witnessing a landmark event for their country.

“We were on the phone telling people to get out to vote all day,” said Kati Garringer-Maccabe, the local volunteer coordinator for Obama’s campaign. “We got someone in Hayden five minutes before the polls closed who didn’t know they were registered. They got to the poll in time.”

The Obama staff said it made at least 15,000 calls through the last four days and knocked on each Democrat-leaning door in Steamboat three times Tuesday alone.

Babette Dickson was a part of that effort, volunteering to help spread Obama’s campaign message of change and hope. But that didn’t explain her emotions as she watched Obama deliver his first speech as president-elect.

“My first husband, he passed away 13 years ago. He was an African-American from Chicago himself, and was a Vietnam veteran,” Dickson said, her tear-stained eyes ringed with running makeup. “He told me an African-American, no matter what, would never make it. Now I’m here to see it happen.”

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The reasons were surely different in every house, but millions across the country celebrated when the 47-year-old first-term senator from Illinois was elected to be the 44th president.

The results and margin may have been decisive, but some Routt County voters went to the polls undecided.

County voter Mike Rossman said he often votes Libertarian, thanks to unsatisfactory choices from the main parties.

Still, he decided Tuesday that this was no year for a protest, especially considering Colorado was a crucial battleground state.

“It’s pretty important we have a regime change,” he said. “That’s why I voted the way I voted. I’d hate to have (Obama) lose by one.”

The decision wasn’t as difficult for 18-year-old Austin Watts, though he also said he spent the past several weeks making up his mind. A first-year business student at Colorado Mountain College, Watts has only been in Steamboat for two months. That didn’t prove enough time for his many Obama-supporting friends to sway him, he said.

The Tennessee native said disagreements with Obama on Iraq and concerns about his experience encouraged him to vote for Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain.

“I’m just not sold on Obama,” he said, moments after casting his first presidential vote. “I looked at him carefully, but there was a bunch of little things that weren’t what I agree with. It took me awhile to figure out, but Obama wasn’t promising the kind of change I’m looking for.”

Still, the magnitude of the day didn’t escape him, even as he admitted his man McCain’s outlook was bleak.

The White House changed hands, the country may change direction and the first African-American was elected president of the U.S.

The significance was not lost on any.

“I’ve not been around very long,” Watts said, “but this is the biggest election I can think of.”