Grass roots politics in Grass Valley
Cheers resonated from the cramped quarters of the Nevada County Democratic Central Committee Headquarters Thursday evening as 100 Democrats huddled in front of a television to watch John Kerry’s nomination acceptance speech on C-SPAN.
Many people were on their feet with hot dogs and cookies in hand. Others were sitting quietly on the floor, nodding and wiping away tears as Kerry repeatedly challenged President Bush on his policies and the war in Iraq.
Local Democrat Chairwoman Mary Longmore, who turned down an invitation to attend the convention in Boston to be in Grass Valley, was motivated by the energy generated by Kerry’s speech and spoke afterward about the need to organize people locally to bring the county back to a Democrat majority.
“In 1984, this county was Democratic,” she said. She asked the crowd Thursday to “bring back” those who she said had strayed from the party during the Reagan years. “Let’s find them, dig them out from under the rock and tell them to come home.”
The Democratic Central Committee has officially endorsed two candidates for local offices – Dean Williams for Grass Valley City Council and Bruce Conklin for the District 3 Board of Supervisors seat, Longmore said.
Both candidates spoke to the crowd Thursday. Dean promised, that, if elected, he would only vote to approve one of the four major developments planned for Grass Valley. Conklin spoke about how most of the important decisions that affect people’s everyday lives happen at the county level.
Conklin is a former supervisor who lost his seat to Drew Bedwell by 17 votes in 2002. The seat is now vacant since Bedwell resigned for health reasons earlier this summer. Conklin hopes to get his old seat back.
Michaele Merlo, secretary for the Democratic Central Committee, said the most exciting part of the evening was that “these are all new people here.” She said the party has been working hard to have the ability to reach new people in the area and was impressed with the “vitality” they experienced Thursday night.
For local resident Iola Eliana Gold, the issues, not partisan politics, are important.
“I thought (the speeches) were excellent, irrespective of party,” Gold said. She said she was tired of hearing politicians use sound bites and that Kerry addressed key issues that were important to her, such as education.
She said there has been “too much bickering (between parties) in this county. Before it didn’t matter – you could still work across the aisle.”
Joyce Dirnberger also noticed that party lines are no longer so clear.
“I feel it is interesting when Democrats are talking about a Bible and going to war,” she said, referring to Kerry’s references in his speech to strengthening the military and a gift of a Bible that gave him courage.
The Nevada County Democrats organized a special club, Action Dems, to devote to activities such as registering new voters, campaigning for candidates and becoming more visible in the community. Bruce Longmore said that 25 people joined the Action Dems club Thursday night and that many people opened their pocketbooks to support the Democrat Central Committee.
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