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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Friday — February 27, 2004


Blaine overwhelmingly endorses Kerry

Tuesday caucus turns out record crowd

"What a fabulous turnout for Blaine County. This is what’s going to happen in November."

CLINT STENNETT, Senate Minority Leader

"As a former chair of the Blaine County Democrats, this is just an incredible turnout. I think it just reflects the level of disgust with the Bush administration. Regime change starts at home."

JON MARVEL, Hailey Democrat and environmental activist

Kerry rolls into Super Tuesday with upper hand

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, also a part-time Blaine County resident, has won 18 out of 20 state contests so far in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. Kerry’s wins in Idaho, Utah and Hawaii last week give him a little more momentum heading into next week’s Super Tuesday contests in California, New York, Ohio and Georgia, where more than half of the 2,162 delegates that are up for grabs are needed to win the nomination.

None of the three states that voted last Tuesday are predicted to by key battlegrounds in November’s general election. Idaho and Utah are staunchly Republican, and Hawaii is equally solidly Democratic.

Express Staff Writer

Blaine County Democrats convened in record numbers during Tuesday night’s state caucus and showed their resounding support for Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, who easily won Idaho’s and Blaine County’s contests.

The Idaho Democratic Party reported that with all county meetings reporting Tuesday, Kerry received 54 percent of the state’s vote. North Carolina Sen. John Edwards garnered 22 percent of the vote, and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean pulled in 11 percent.

Blaine County’s Democratic caucus Tuesday boasted a record turnout, with 270 local citizens attending to support their preferred candidates. Express photo by Willy Cook

When county delegates convene in Pocatello for the state Democratic convention in June, Kerry should receive 12 delegate votes, and Edwards should get the remaining six.

In Blaine County, commonly considered the most Democratic of Idaho’s counties and also Kerry’s home away from home, more than four times as many Democrats braved snowy roads to attend the 2000 Democratic caucus.

Filling the Blaine County Senior Center in Hailey to capacity, 270 Blaine County citizens jammed in to support their preferred candidates. Four years earlier, 68 Democrats participated, said Blaine County Democrats Chair Betty Murphy.

"What a fabulous turnout for Blaine County," said Idaho Senate Minority Leader Clint Stennett, D-Ketchum. "This is what’s going to happen in November."

Senate Minority Leader Clint Stennett, D-Ketchum, led a brief auction Tuesday that will benefit the Blaine County Democrats. House Minority Leader Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, said she will continue to support Sen. John Kerry’s bid for the White House. Express photo by Willy Cook

At first count, Kerry had 194 supporters, enough to land all nine of the county’s delegates. After caucusing for about a half hour, supporters for Edwards, Dean, Dennis Kucinich and Al Sharpton pulled together to amass enough support to give Edwards one of the county’s delegates. Dean and Kucinich supporters were several votes short of the 15 percent threshold needed to send a delegate to the state convention.

The Blaine County caucus was as much a party pep rally, as it was a chance for citizens to show their support for their preferred presidential candidates.

While event organizers were performing a head count, Stennett auctioned a button depicting Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Attorney General John Ashcroft, Vice President Dick Cheney and President George W. Bush. The button read "Asses of Evil," and after local resident Jim Grossman said he could get the button signed by Kerry, the bidding quickly escalated.

Ketchum Fire Department Lt. Lara Babalis outbid a number of prominent local Democrats, including Hailey attorney Keith Roark, who ran for Idaho Attorney General in 2003, and Alan Blinken, who ran against Sen. Larry Craig the same year.

Babalis’ winning bid of $300 will go to the Blaine County Democrats organization.

Betty Murphy is the chair of the Blaine County Democrats. She said the enthusiasm expressed at the Tuesday caucus is something she hopes to help carry through to next November’s general presidential election. "I’m so proud that so many turned up. It was wonderful, especially on a storm night," she said. Express photo by Willy Cook

Idaho House Minority Leader Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, pulled for John Kerry and called him "Blaine County’s favorite son."

"I’ve been involved in his campaign, and I’ll continue to be," she said. "I think it’s really exciting for the West, because he’s got these roots here."

Blinken, a friend and neighbor of Kerry’s, said the Bush campaign will try any means possible to defame Kerry.

"They’ll try every stunt in the book," he said. "But you know what John says, ‘Bring it on.’"

Blinken noted that Kerry’s wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, has supported an overhaul of local emergency medical services and helped save Galena Lodge, a cross-country skiing center north of Ketchum.

Blinken’s wife, Melinda, is a friend of Theresa Heinz Kerry and has traveled with her the past several months on the campaign trail.

Hailey environmental activist Jon Marvel said he, too, was supporting Kerry. Marvel chaired the Blaine County Democrats from 1992 to 1996.

"As a former chair of the Blaine County Democrats, this is just an incredible turnout," he said. "I think it just reflects the level of disgust with the Bush administration. Regime change starts at home."

Following the initial count of candidate supporters, representatives from each group were given opportunities to plug their presidential picks and answer questions about their platforms.

Blinken, the spokesman for Kerry supporters, said his candidate and his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, are people who have contributed significantly to Idaho and to Blaine County.

"They are out neighbors. The kinds of things they’ve done in our state are things they can do all over the nation," he said. "He knows health care. He knows education. But what he really knows is Americans."

Though there was not absolute agreement among Democrats about who to send into the ring with Bush in November, Dean supporter Bill Harvey said the party must ultimately coalesce behind one candidate.

"Nothing’s going to happen unless George Bush goes down," Harvey said. "We’ve got to bring the disaffected voters in. If we don’t stay energized, people are going to go away."


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