Coloradans show support for Obama, even from outside Whalen Gym

By Alastair Lee Bitsoi
Navajo Times
DURANGO, Colo., Oct. 12, 2012

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Although Minne Johnson wasn’t among the audience of 3,500 for First Lady Michelle Obama’s campaign visit here at FortLewis College on Wednesday night, she listened as best she could outside Whalen Gym.

“I hear some cheering,” said Johnson, who was among the several hundred people left outside the gym because it reached capacity crowd, when the First Lady began her opening remarks about her husband’s 2012 presidential reelection bid.

Johnson, a registered Colorado voter since moving from Sweetwater, Ariz., 20 years ago, is excited about how important her vote will matter in this year’s election.

She is voting in what political experts deem a battleground state up for grabs by both Democratic and Republican parties. According to these political pundits, Colorado, and the other eight battleground states will be key in determining which presidential candidates – President Barack Obama or Rep. Mitt Romney - secures the necessary electoral college votes to win the White House.

“I’m a democrat,” Johnson said. “I think we’ll do good. It’s going to be a good election.”

As the First Lady spoke about the Obama Administration’s inheritance of the poor economy, rescue of the auto industry, health care reform, ending the war in Iraq, and the need for Colorado voters to vote, among other Obama efforts, Marc Bigman listened intently to the sound system outside the gym.

From what he heard through the sound system, Bigman said he appreciated the First Lady’s message of not giving up on dreams.

“That is inspirational to me,” said the 22-year-old, who originally hails from LeChee, Ariz. “I’m a little bummed I didn’t get in but it’s awesome to be even part of it. I’m voting for Obama!”

Fellow LeChee-an Melanie Spencer, who has lived in Durango since 2008, said she’s excited about how important her vote will be in this election, given how close the state race was in 2008 between Obama and Sen. John McCain.

“It’s a privilege,” Spencer said about being able to vote in a battleground state. “I know a lot of people who don’t vote back in Arizona and on the reservation. I’m about to make a difference in what will be a close election.”

Like the last election, Spencer is going to cast her vote for Obama.

“Her and her husband are good examples for youth, my children and Native Americans as well,” Spencer said, before adding, “Obama 2012!”

Following the First Lady’s 25-minute speech, droves of bystanders including Nico Garnenez gathered toward the security entrance of the gym and chanted “Obama!” for their chance to listen and see her.

In a 47-second impromptu speech, Obama addressed the crowd of people left standing outside Whalen Gym, saying, “In 27 more days, lots of hard work and focus, we’ll get the work done!”

Garnenez, who moved to Durango from Kirtland, N.M. in 2000, said he was honored by the fact that the First Lady took time to address the crowd assembled outside the gym.

“I just like that Colorado is a swing-state and that all the people here cold carry the state,” Garnenez said, adding, “All I’m thinking is fresh votes. Eighteen-year-olds need to get out and vote.”

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