Campaigners to swing votes |

Campaigners to swing votes

Candidate backers leave traditionally 'safe' states for Colorado

Brandon Gee

From offices cluttered with yard signs, bumper stickers, cardboard cutouts, T-shirts and posters, Kati Garringer-Maccabe and Jerri MacMillian are doing everything they can to influence the outcome of the presidential race in Colorado.

Garringer-Maccabe is from Indiana, and MacMillian is from Connecticut. Presidential races in both states haven’t been competitive in recent years. Indiana has not voted for a Democrat since 1964. Connecticut hasn’t backed a Republican since 1988. So Garringer-Maccabe and MacMillian came to Steamboat Springs to sway the opinions of voters in purple Colorado.

Although Indiana has surprisingly emerged as a potential swing state this year, Garringer-Maccabe immediately thought of Colorado when she first applied to work for Barack Obama’s campaign.

“I wanted to come to Colorado,” said Garringer-Maccabe, who is the volunteer coordinate at Obama’s “Campaign for Change” office in Steamboat. “I wanted to be in a swing state where the action was. : I felt I got to make a difference.”

MacMillian made a similar choice. She is a summertime Steamboat resident who wouldn’t be in town this autumn if it weren’t for the presidential campaign.

“Connecticut is not in contention, which is a polite way of saying it,” said MacMillian, who is not affiliated with either political party but is volunteering at the Steamboat campaign office for John McCain.

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Both are far from alone. At the Obama office, Garringer-Maccabe’s volunteer army includes people from other less-competitive states, such as California (blue), Utah (red) and Illinois (blue).

The practice reflects a national campaign strategy for both parties. While she chose Colorado, MacMillian said other Connecticut residents who want to volunteer for McCain are commonly sent to New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. Garringer-Maccabe said the Obama campaign also asks people to visit neighboring swing states or make phone calls to them from home. Before graduating from DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., in May, Garringer-Maccabe would call voters in other states from her dorm room.

MacMillian said she has backed McCain all along, but wasn’t spurred to volunteer for his campaign until he announced his running mate.

“When Sarah Palin was identified as the vice presidential nominee, I looked at her and listened to her and thought, ‘By golly, that could be me,'” MacMillian said. “I could identify with her. I’m an equal opportunist offender. I will call a spade a spade. I find her refreshingly willing to do that, as well.”

MacMillian’s activism inspired her son – an engineer who calls Steamboat home but is working in Germany – to take action of his own. MacMillian said her son would arrive in Steamboat on Monday night, vote Tuesday and fly back to Germany on Wednesday. With a vote for Barack Obama, MacMillian’s son will attempt to offset some of his mother’s work.

Compared to their previous campaign work, Garringer-Maccabe and MacMillian described Steamboat voters as informed, enthusiastic and civil, regardless of the candidate they back.

“The campaigning here is much more enjoyable,” Garringer-Maccabe said. “There’s a greater sense of community.”

– To reach Brandon Gee, call 871-4210

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