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Democrats try to raise profile

NIK DIRGA, Sierra Sun Editor

(Editor’s note: this is part two of a series intended to provide information about local grassroots political groups and their roles in the 2000 elections. Part one of the series, featuring the Truckee-Tahoe Republican Women, ran last week. )

As the campaign ads hit the airwaves and debate season begins in earnest, the Truckee-Tahoe area’s political organizations are stepping up their efforts to educate the community about their goals and ideas.

One of these groups is the North Tahoe Democratic Club, which held a meeting Sept. 27 at the home of members Parvin Darabi and Reiner Meier in Truckee.

In what they call a heavily Republican community, the Democratic Club is working hard to get their message out.

“North Tahoe and Truckee is very predominantly Republican,” club president Bill Sweeney of Incline Village said. “We feel that our club gives a voice to the Democrats that are living and working in this community.”

“We see ourselves as keeping the spirit of the Democrats alive up here,” Sweeney said.

The Democratic Club hosted a talk by Ellen Pillard, director of the Sierra Club for Nevada and the California Eastern Sierra.

Pillard discussed the Sierra Club’s endorsement of Al Gore, rather than Green Party candidate Ralph Nader, and her own environmental activism in the Reno/Tahoe area.

“There’s a lot to be done, and I am convinced Al Gore offers local environmentalists the best possible alternative in the 2000 election,” Pillard said.

Despite its small size, the club has drawn some fairly big-name speakers, including Nevada U.S. Senate candidate Ed Bernstein, California State Senate candidate Tom Romero, California State Assembly District 4 candidate Steve Macola and more.

“It’s been wonderful,” said Sweeney. “I have not gotten a turndown from anyone. Everyone is always surprised there’s a Democratic club in Lake Tahoe, they have to come up and see what we look like.”

Sweeney said the club’s frequent speakers have raised attendance at meetings.

“We have gotten at least three or four new members at the last couple of meetings as a result,” he said.

The North Tahoe Democratic Club organized around 1994 under its first president, Sarah Malin. Since then, the group has grown to include about 80 active members, with an average of around 30 members at each meeting.

Club member Theresa May Duggan took her involvement further into the political process than many – she served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in August, representing California’s 4th Congressional District.

The convention was Duggan’s first, and a memorable experience for her.

“It was unbelievable,” Duggan said. “I could feel the reinvigoration of the campaign.”

Duggan spoke to the club at a recent meeting about her convention trip.

“It was fantastic,” Sweeney said. “She really brought it to life for us all.”

Sweeney said that due to 2000 being a major election year, the club has tended to focus its efforts more on state and national races.

“This year there are so many larger offices running, we haven’t had as much of a chance to focus on the more local races,” Sweeney said.

In the past, the Democratic Club’s efforts have included voter phone calls.

“We’re small but we made over 500 calls for (U.S. Senator from Nevada) Harry Reid in 1998 and he won by 427 votes,” Sweeney said. “Now, I’m not saying that every phone call equaled a vote, but I’d like to think we made a difference.”

The club also helps with donations to Democratic campaigns, talks to local schools, and voter outreach programs.

This year, the club hopes to help with Nevada U.S. Senate candidate Ed Bernstein’s race, as well as several California Legislature races.

For more information on the North Tahoe Democratic Club, call Bill Sweeney at (775) 832-9500.


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