Faithful want Obama to visit |

Faithful want Obama to visit

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Mark Gilbert met Barack Obama a few years ago at a fundraising dinner for Democrats.

Gilbert walked away from the politician with a prediction: the Illinois Democrat would be the party’s presidential nominee within a decade or so.

Obama, now one of the Democratic front-runners, is tentatively scheduled to visit Park City on Aug. 5 for a fundraiser. Gilbert, who is helping organize the appearance, remembers discussing with the senator overarching ideas like how to change education, health care and energy policies.

"I believe he is the one person who can unite the country and work on these issues to correct them now," Gilbert says.

Details of Obama’s visit are not finalized, and his campaign does not confirm he will appear. Gilbert, though, says the fundraiser will likely be scheduled at someone’s house. He does not disclose how much the organizers hope to raise. Contributions could be set at $500 to attend a reception and $2,300 to go to a smaller gathering, he says.

Gilbert, who lives in Boca Raton, Fla., but spends time in The Colony, is part of Obama’s nationwide fundraising operation. He trumpets Obama as a candidate with mass appeal.

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"The senator is running a campaign to be president of all 50 states, not just a handful of blue states," he says.

Gilbert says young people are excited about the campaign, and Obama has a history, in Congress and at the Illinois Statehouse, of appealing to people outside the Democratic Party.

Local Democrats are thrilled with the prospects of an Obama appearance in Park City. The city typically leans Democratic. Laura Bonham, the chairwoman of the Summit County Democratic Party, says the national party is honoring its pledge to compete all over the country.

"It’s showing, to some effect, the Howard Dean 50-state plan is working," Bonham says, referring to the party’s national chairman and adding Parkites will respond well to Obama’s political message. "I think he deserves a good reception because he talks about pulling together in our communities."

She predicts Parkites will ask Obama about efforts to end the Iraqi war, his energy platform and his health-care plank.

An Obama appearance would mark the second local visit by a major presidential candidate in 2007. Mitt Romney, a Deer Valley homeowner with deep ties in Utah, including helming the 2002 Winter Olympics, held a fundraiser at Goldener Hirsch in June.

"I think it’s very important to have one of the top-tier candidates come around," says Todd Taylor, the executive director of the Utah Democratic Party, noting an earlier visit to Utah by Democrat John Edwards and a scheduled visit by Bill Richardson, another party member. "This is a delegate fight, and Utah has delegates."

Taylor projects Obama could raise at least $100,000 during a Park City appearance. He predicts Obama will learn about Western issues, like wildfires and drought.

The interest from the candidates highlights Park City as a well-heeled stopover, where politicians can bring in good money as they travel to or from the big cities on the West Coast.

Romney’s fundraising in Park City is especially notable. In the first quarter of 2007, before the June fundraiser, Romney raised $109,200 in Park City’s 84060 zip code, one of his most lucrative places.

David Ure, the chairman of the Summit County Republican Party, expects Parkites will be happy if Obama visits. He says he respects Obama but does not provide details. He says the candidate has "charisma." Ure wonders whether Obama has enough experience to be president.

"I would be very surprised if he didn’t have a very good turnout in Park City," Ure says. "There are a large number of Democrats in Park City. I think a good share of them support the same philosophy he and Hillary (Clinton) have."