Democratic party animals in Tonopah
Nevada Democrats headed to Tonopah over the weekend to discuss the 2004 election, clown on President Bush and eat some barbecue from Tonopah’s Full Moon Saloon. Members reviewed the party’s recent accomplishments and future plans. They voted in new leaders. But much of the meeting focused on the presidential race and getting rid of Bush. They also discussed how best to keep U.S. Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Shelley Berkley in Washington, and how to deal with challenges in the Nevada Legislature.

During a speech given Saturday afternoon at the Tonopah Convention Center, state Sen. Dina Titus (D-Vegas) shared insight on next year’s election—and which Republican state legislators are left-wing targets.

Titus said she doesn’t think her party will control the Nevada Senate during the next legislative session. But it is clear that Sen. Ray Shaffer (R-Vegas) will have his hands full in 2004.

“[Shaffer] left town and went to Hawaii instead of sticking it out for the end of the session,” Titus said about the Democrat-turned-Republican’s vacation during the 2003 Legislature. “We were up there trying to figure out a tax policy, and he was in Hawaii getting lei-ed.”

Most Democratic presidential candidates had supporters in attendance, but none of the candidates was represented as well as Howard Dean. More than a dozen Dean supporters made the trip, sporting Dean gear and spreading his message. They were even selling campaign buttons reading, “Bush is an idiot.”

Dean backer Barry Ellsworth pointed out the former Vermont governor’s ability to turn around his state’s budget deficit, unemployment and teen pregnancy.

Ellsworth also touched on health insurance, among other issues, noting that 96 percent of Vermont children are insured, and the adult percentage is almost as high.

“Read what Howard Dean [accomplished] as governor of Vermont,” Ellsworth said. “We want to put a president in the White House who will make a nation that we are proud of, and Howard Dean’s the man to do it.”

Dennis Kucinich supporter Venicia Considine felt the same way about her candidate. Considine pointed to the Ohio congressman’s voting record.

Kucinich voted against the war in Iraq, the Patriot Act and the $87 billion Iraq and Afghanistan bill.

Kucinich wants to withdraw from NAFTA and WTO, Considine added, and looks to change the mindset of the White House.

Justin Gilbert, president of the Young Democrats, supports John Edwards. He compared the North Carolina senator’s background to his own. Edwards came from a hard-working, middle-class family, as did Gilbert. After years of hard work, Gilbert’s parents became disabled.

“They both worked hard, they both cared, and they both tried to do the right thing,” Gilbert said. “They weren’t able to put money aside for college for me or my brother, but they worked hard and put food on the table. John Edwards grew up like that. He understands that even good, hard-working people who go to work everyday still need help.”

As president, Edwards promises tax breaks for middle-income Americans to help them buy a home, save for retirement and pay for college, Gilbert said. Edwards intends an education system that pays for a student’s first year of college if the student is willing to volunteer 10 hours a week to community service.

Washington, D.C., hosts the first Democratic caucus Jan. 13; however, the majority of the Democratic Party’s presidential candidates took their names off the D.C. ballot. Iowa’s caucus marks the beginning of the tone-setting nomination process on Jan. 19. Nevada’s caucus is Feb. 14.

Titus wouldn’t elaborate on which presidential candidate she favors. She’s waiting until the state party takes a position. However, she did mention her recent contribution to the ousting of Bush.

During Bush’s visit to Nevada on Nov. 25, tongue-in-cheek news stories were written on Titus who, along with Nevada state archivist Guy Rocha, criticized the president on how he pronounced Nevada. Like Rocha, Titus received more than 100 e-mails from Bush supporters around the country blasting her for correcting him.

“One said I shouldn’t be making fun of George Bush because that was just his charming Southern accent,” Titus said to a room of 70 laughing people. “I wrote back that I have a very charming Southern accent, and I sure as hell know how to say Nevada.”