Durango anxious to see first lady

Lines long for tickets to hear Michelle Obama

People started lining up at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at the La Plata County Democratic headquarters to get free tickets to see first lady Michelle Obama, who will speak Wednesday at Fort Lewis College. Enlarge photo

SHAUN STANLEY/Durango Herald

People started lining up at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at the La Plata County Democratic headquarters to get free tickets to see first lady Michelle Obama, who will speak Wednesday at Fort Lewis College.

Residents from around La Plata County waited patiently in line Saturday afternoon as party workers handed out free tickets to first lady Michelle Obama’s speech that will be held at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Fort Lewis College’s Whalen Gymnasium.

By far, the busiest of the two Durango ticket locations was at the county Democratic headquarters at College Drive and East Third Avenue.

The ticket giveaway started at 1 p.m., and by 2 p.m., the line stretched along College to East Fourth Avenue.

A local campaign worker who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak for the campaign, said that by 2 p.m., the Third Avenue location had given out about 500 tickets.

The second location near FLC’s Whalen Gym had given out about 300 by that time, he said. There are an estimated 3,500 tickets available.

Tickets are still available, said Michael Amodeo, press secretary for the Obama campaign office in Colorado.

The gym may only hold around 3,300 people, said Fire Marshal Karola Hanks with Durango Fire & Rescue Authority.

A spokesman for FLC estimated gym capacity at 3,000 to 4,000, and said the Obama campaign had not given the college an exact number of tickets available.

An official limit was not available at press time.

There was strong demand for tickets because “the first lady is someone who can speak to the character of the president,” the campaign worker said. “She gives the behind-the-scenes look” at Barack Obama, he added.

Volunteers Susan and Stuart Robins of Ignacio said the high turnout shows that Colorado is more than just the Front Range. Later, the campaign worker added that the Western Slope is more than just Grand Junction.

This is an important election because “I think people are ready for change. ... A lot of people are hurting,” Susan Robins said. She added that the election has divided families.

Stuart Robins, who said he writes about politics on his Facebook page, said he is an independent but didn’t even vote in 2008 because he favored John McCain until he picked Sarah Palin as his running mate. At the time, he felt then-Sen. Barack Obama lacked experience.

Now, however, he said he feels that while the president has made some significant mistakes, the Republicans have made it hard for him to accomplish anything.

“Republicans attack people’s personas (using) shallow argument,” he said. “People are starting to pay attention.”

The long ticket line is an indication of the community’s mood, the Robinses said. And while La Plata County often is seen as Republican, Susan Robins said, “There are a lot of closet Democrats.”

Comments » Read and share your thoughts on this story