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Beer and beans and pie, oh my!

The Kerry convention from Colorado: Coloradans, a Canadian and a culinary competition

By Leigh E. Rich

He’s a veteran and she’s an immigrant. They’ve only been married a few years, patching together a modern American family. And they’re both concerned with making Colorado count in this year’s election.

It’s no wonder Mark and Alana Randol of Denver are Kerry crusaders.

Volunteering for both Veterans for Kerry and Coloradans for Kerry, the Randols, however, ran a rather circuitous path before finding themselves in the middle of the John Kerry-John Edwards campaign.

Mark, in fact, was a Republican until the 2000 presidential election.

And Alana is a Canadian.

Though she cannot even vote for her candidate while she undergoes the five-year naturalization process to officially become a U.S. citizen, Alana says she will do whatever she can—“short of casting my ballot”—to get Kerry elected.

“I can’t vote, but I can register voters,” Alana said last Thursday at the Blake Street Tavern, where approximately 125 Kerry supporters gathered to watch the Democratic nominee’s acceptance speech.

The Colorado Campaign for John Kerry for President sponsored the event, complete with a Boston crème pie and a Boston baked beans contest. Winners of the culinary competitions, Tara Friedman and Wendy Cattanach, both of Denver, earned a chance to greet Kerry on one of his upcoming visits to the Centennial State.

Friedman’s winning pie read “Chris Heinz is fine,” intimating it’s not the lofty senator with whom she’d like to shake hands.

Others in the youthful crowd enjoyed appetizers and Flying Dog beer, as they filled out booths, perched atop pool tables and leaned against walls and railings to watch the tavern’s six television screens. Servers wore Kerry-Edwards buttons, and the din of the bar continued in a muffled background hum throughout Kerry’s address.

The Colorado viewers cheered as Kerry spoke of “valuing families,” protecting the environment, closing tax loopholes, curing AIDS, Alzheimer’s and diabetes, and providing health care for all.

People stomped their feet when Kerry promised to oppose sending American jobs overseas or privatizing social security.

And the gathering erupted with overwhelming support as the Democratic candidate quoted Abe Lincoln, pledging to “pray humbly that we are on God’s side,” just as the television camera panned to a Boston delegate wearing a Colorado Democrats T-shirt.

Kerry couldn’t quite rouse this local crowd, however, to sing along with his “help is on the way” with the harmony that John Edwards had among the delegates the night before.

Still, it appeared Kerry’s platform of a united American family capable of reclaiming our democracy, realigning the playing field and revising our standing in the world resonated with the Blake Street group.

It certainly did with Mark Randol who, in a different world, never would have enlisted with the Democrats’ team. A corporal in the Marine Corps from 1987 to 1993, Mark says he left the Republican Party following the 2000 election.

“When (George W. Bush) went to court to stop a mandatory recount, I said that is not the kind of country I want to defend,” he explains.

For Mark, the decision to drop the Republicans, his wife emphasizes, was “a matter of principle.”

With no party affiliation, Mark then checked out the Libertarians, and “after much soul searching,” joined the Democrats.

Now, he and Alana have found themselves in the center ring with the potential first family themselves. When Kerry and Edwards came through Denver for the July 23 rally at the Fillmore Auditorium, Mark was one of 16 veterans who greeted Kerry at the airport and Alana was chosen to chauffeur Kerry’s daughters, Vanessa and Alex, to the venue.

“It was a great honor,” Alana says of her duties two weeks ago. She even took several days off from work in order to volunteer for the Kerry cause.

After dropping the Kerry daughters off at the Fillmore, Alana then worked as a “straggler van,” taking official Kerry campaign people wherever they needed to go.

Meeting the Democratic candidate twice during his July 23 trip, Mark and Alana remember shaking hands with Kerry, who remarked, “I’ve heard about you two. … Keep up the fight.”

Alana recalls telling the Massachusetts senator, “I will, sir.”

The Randols are not the only Coloradans who rubbed shoulders with Kerry and Edwards and their families that day. Ann Deas, a health researcher who works on type I diabetes and volunteers at The Children’s Hospital, was asked by the Kerry campaign to join them on stage during the rally.

“That kind of thing doesn’t happen to me that often,” says Deas, who is a Kerry supporter but wasn’t previously associated with the campaign. “I had quite a ball doing that on Friday and it was really nice (Kerry) mentioned me in his speech.”

The Randols also had a glowing encounter with the prospective first lady, who interrupted her busy schedule to chat with volunteers. Calling Teresa Heinz Kerry gracious, kind and down-to-earth, Alana says she was a tad star-struck around the ketchup heiress.

Though converts from Howard Dean’s campaign and active foot soldiers for Mike Miles’ play for Colorado’s open Senate seat, the Randols say Kerry stuck out as the top 2004 candidate because of his military and senate records and his “strong speeches.”

“We would have been Kerry supporters anyway,” says Alana, who believes Kerry to be the stronger candidate even though she deems Dean “phenomenal.”

But the Randols, who married in 2002 and are both professionals in the information technology sector, haven’t limited their civic service to only Democratic endeavors. They also have registered voters at local King Soopers stores.

When asked how a Canadian becomes more active in American politics than the average citizen, Alana explains, “I am very patriotic. I want what’s best for America. … This is my home. I plan to stay.”

She’s even already studying for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service’s citizenship exam, including memorizing all 50 U.S. states and capitals.

“It’s so much easier as a Canadian,” she teases. “We only have 12.”

The couple, who have two children and two shar-pei and German shepherd mixes, both expect more Americans to vote in the 2004 election, especially after what happened in 2000.

And they hope more will vote for Kerry and his platform to strengthen America domestically and internationally.

Most Americans, Alana concludes, “don’t want to be hated in the world.”

Rich, L. E. (2004, Special DNC Issue). The Kerry convention from Colorado: Coloradans, a Canadian and a culinary competition. The Colorado Statesman, p. 6.

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