Surprises abound in Pueblo

Surprises come in all sizes.

That could have been the slogan for the weekend's state Democratic convention in Pueblo, where Colorado Springs educator and political novice Mike Miles stole headlines with his defeat of state Attorney General Ken Salazar.

But the convention generated at least one other surprise for Routt County residents.

Steamboat Springs High School teacher Mike Smith was elected to attend the Democratic National Convention in Boston this summer as a delegate of the state's 3rd Congressional District.

Smith, who has a history of political involvement, albeit more local, said he was shocked by his election.

"I couldn't even believe it," Smith said. "I had to ask them twice, 'Are you sure?'"

The veteran math teacher has been an active member of the Steamboat Springs Education Association for many years and is a board member for the Colorado Education Association's Fund for Children in Public Education.

Now he'll enter the national political scene.

"I just wanted to be involved in the political process," Smith said. "I think it's an important year for people to be involved, no matter what party you're in. Everybody can have an impact, even a lowly teacher."

In a one-minute speech to an estimated 250 to 300 voting delegates from the 3rd District, Smith emphasized education, particularly as it relates to advocacy for children and teachers. The time limit didn't allow for much else.

"You can't say a lot in a minute," Smith joked Monday.

Several longtime Routt County Democrats said it has been as long as two decades since a local Democrat has been selected to attend a national convention.

With his election, Smith will be one of 64 state delegates to attend the July 26 through 29 national convention, where the Democratic Party is expected to officially nominate a presidential candidate as well as a vice president for the Nov. 4 election. Smith is a supporter of Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the likely nominee.

For Smith, the trip to Boston will be more than a chance to get involved in the country's democratic process; it also will be a homecoming. Smith is from Massachusetts.

"I'm definitely going to go a little early to spend some time with my mom," he said.

Smith was one of 23 Routt County Democrats who traveled to Pueblo during the weekend for the party assembly. Routt County Democratic Party chairman Ken Brenner said this year was the first time in memory the county has sent a full contingent of delegates to the state assembly.

"It was entertaining all the way through," Brenner said. "The delegates were great. I don't think there was a single person who went who wouldn't go again."

Brenner said Miles' defeat of Salazar for top billing on the party's Aug. 10 primary ballot was the biggest news of the weekend. The race for the party's Senate nomination is far from over, but Brenner said Miles' success is less surprising when one considers his background. Miles, a school administrator from Fountain, is a West Point graduate, a former Army Ranger and served as a diplomat in Poland and Russia.

"People are listening to him and really liking his message," Brenner said.

Other surprises from the weekend included the strong showing of Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, and the failure of Grand Junction Mayor Jim Spehar to gain sufficient delegate support to make the Aug. 10 primary ballot, Brenner said.

The state Republican convention is June 5 in Denver.

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