Steve Suwe left the Democratic forum in Carson City on Wednesday afternoon enlivened about his choice for the 2008 ticket: former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, because of his advocacy for the middle class.
His son, 14-year-old Robby, supports Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., for a much different reason.
"Because she's a girl," the Carson High School freshman said.
The former first lady was one of eight Democratic presidential candidates vying for the support of more than 800 voters who attended the noon forum, sponsored by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Buses came in from as far away as Oakland, Calif., and Los Angeles. While Republican protesters gathered outside, faithful Democrats celebrated their good fortune of seeing the candidates during the first Democratic presidential forum, which was televised by ABC and CSPAN.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing," said Robby.
"I was wowed," said his father after the forum.
They were also surprised that such a historic event would happen in their little town. Suwe, a Department of Corrections case worker, is using the 2008 elections as a civics lesson for his son.
Topics at the 21Ú2-hour forum included the Iraq war, universal health care and affordable college education. Many Northern Nevadans who attended the event said they were disappointed by the absence of Sen. Barack Obama.
Barbara Pennington, of Reno, went into the forum unsure who she would support: Clinton or Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.
"I was disappointed he didn't show up," she said. "But I'm hoping he'll come to other forums."
The 57-year-old parole specialist was sure of one thing before the forum: She didn't like Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del. The senator received negative attention soon after he announced his candidacy because of comments he made about Obama.
"Going in, I didn't like Biden at all, but I was really impressed with him," she said. "I'm still for Hillary. I was even more impressed with her."
Kelley Josten, 25, a former Marine, is a registered Republican. Disgruntled by the Iraq war, Josten is considering taking his vote elsewhere.
"I like Sen. Biden and Sen. Clinton," said Josten, a UPS worker. "I like Biden's fire. Frankly, I like what he was saying about the federal system we need to put in place in Iraq. I could very well see myself voting for either."
His brother, Jon Josten, a Western Nevada Community College student, favored Edwards and Obama before the forum. He knew very little about former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, or New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. Josten left the forum feeling like he got to know them.
"If I had to vote today, I wouldn't be exactly sure who I would go with because everyone gave their argument pretty well," the 19-year-old said. "I think this is a very important election."
K.C. Bjornsen, 58, of Douglas County, was one of the first to arrive at the Community Center, at 9 a.m. She said she felt like Clinton was lacking charisma, which was displayed by Edwards and Richardson.
"But I would still like to hear from Barack Obama," she said after the forum. "I'm holding out to hear him and then I'll make a choice."
She wrote him a note on his Web site, asking him to stop in Northern Nevada.
John Rupert, 5, was getting an early induction into politics. His grandmother and mother, Sherry Rupert, are active Democrats. They've taught him the name of the president and who they hope will take his place.
Who will become the next president? he was asked.
"George Clinton," said the Fremont Elementary kindergartner.
Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1212.