Folks in Colorado battleground excited and hopeful about election

DENVER – It was a beautiful Saturday morning and afternoon Aug. 23 in the Five Point neighborhood just east and north of the downtown location here where the Democratic National Convention is happening. From many of the blocks in this ethnically and racially diverse neighborhood a glance westward rewards the viewer with breath-taking views of one or more snow-capped Rocky Mountain peaks.

Many were out shopping and some were doing what they do for a living. Almost all were willing to offer their thoughts about the 2008 elections.

This reporter bumped into Kamela Alford as she hauled her loaded shopping cart out of the Safeway supermarket. “God help us if McCain is elected,” she said. Alford works at the Veterans Administration hospital in Denver. She said, “The way Bush treats the veterans is a disgrace. They nickle and dime them out of every benefit they are entitled to and I can’t understand why McCain, who was a POW, has turned into someone who now votes against benefits for veterans.”

“I’m with Obama all the way,” Alford declared. She described herself as an “Air Force brat.” Her father, now deceased, served in the U.S. Air Force for 26 years.

Alford said one of the main reasons she supports Obama is his opposition to the war in Iraq. “We’re killing our economy because of this war, not to mention the needless killing of human beings that results from the war.” She said the second big reason was health care. “The private insurance companies are getting away with murder and no civilized society should have all these uninsured people.” Alford’s father died several years ago from a brain tumor.

I met Beth Merschell, a home maker and mother of five, as she had lunch at a Wing Stop in the neighborhood. The kids were home with her husband while she was taking a break in her shopping trip.

Merschell, who described herself as “strongly anti-abortion,” said she could not support McCain, despite the fact that he has the same position that she has on this issue. Merschell is the daughter of a Baptist minister in South Carolina who moved here with her family less than a year ago.

“I don’t go for Christians and evangelicals tying themselves to a particular political party,” she said. “I know many, many evangelicals who would love to vote for Obama. Leaders who put pressure on them over the abortion issue get them to hold off even though they think Obama is the better candidate. I’ve been told over and over that you can’t vote for someone who supports abortion. What I like about Obama, though, is that he is a breath of fresh air. I think he has empathy for other people and we need that in a leader.”

Merschell also said, “It would be great to have an African American president after all that has happened in this country.”

I met Margie Boreck in front of her daughter’s house, several blocks away from the Wing Stop. She was out for a stroll with her three grandchildren, Emilia, Finn and Reese. While Boreck didn’t want to be photographed her grandchildren were anxious to be and grandma consented.

“I am really excited about this election,” Boreck said, “this is a once in a hundred year event.”

She said, pointing to her grandchildren, “I want them to have happy and secure lives. With the economy going the way it is that possibility seems like it could be endangered. Barack Obama offers solutions and good ideas so I am supporting him. He will make a great president.” Boreck is a retired teacher.

After saying goodbye to Boreck, Emilia, Finn and Reese , I crossed the street and walked into the Downing Street Wine and Liquor store. I met Suzette Riddick, the owner, who admitted to having voted for Republicans during her lifetime.

“I’ve got a real problem with and I’m really skeptical about McCain saying that offshore oil drilling is a solution to the energy crisis. We know that won’t do a thing for a long time,” Riddick said.

Riddick, who bought the store five years ago, says that in the last six months skyrocketing fuel prices have increased her costs by over $200 per month.

“This is a small business,” she explained, “I have to order a few cases of everything at a time, unlike the big chains that make mega orders. Each shipper adds $10 or $15 a lot to my delivery costs because of fuel costs, so I really get hit with those fuel related add-on delivery costs. If I could afford huge orders I could save a bit but I am only a small business and I can’t afford that.”

Riddick explained that even before delivery add-ons, the rising fuel prices reflect themselves in higher wholesale prices for the manufactured items themselves. While she hasn’t yet made up her mind about who she will vote for she says that she in considering a vote for Obama. “I do think it is great that we have gotten to the point where a big political party nominates an African-American,” she said.

Next we met “Serge,” a union meat cutter on a break outside another Safeway supermarket. “Serge,” who is a member of Denver’s United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 1, said, “It’s very simple. If we elect Obama, we got a chance, if McCain gets in it just might happen that anyone lucky enough to get a job won’t be making any more than $7.00 an hour. He’s out to kill the unions. Obama supports the unions and if we can grow strong the middle class can come back, the way it did in my father’s day.”

Roy Johnson, who turned 18 six months ago, was also on a break outside the Safeway. He just became a member of the meat cutters’ local “Serge” belongs to. “We need a change. This is my first vote and I support Obama,” he said, adding, “I hope that he can create a lot more good paying jobs for young people.”

Lorraine Lee was outside a dry cleaning place, having just dropped off some clothing. “I’m a union gal, even though I work for a small real estate place,” she said, “because my father was a lifetime UMW Colorado miner. I’m for Obama and I’m even more for him now that he’s picked Joe Biden as his running mate.”

Craig Johnson was following his two year old son across his lawn when I met him. There was a big Obama sign on the lawn. “Why are you supporting Barack,?” I asked. “It’s about the future,” Craig said, “It’s about him,” he added, as he picked up his son.