South Jeffco's Noonan eager to cast vote for Obama at Dem convention

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By AJ Vicens

Longtime Jeffco Democratic activist Paula Noonan is set to play a role in history when she casts a vote for Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention next week.

Noonan, 60, was elected as an Obama delegate from the 6th Congressional District, which includes Jefferson, Douglas, Arapahoe, Elbert and part of Park counties. She is looking forward to casting her vote for the Illinois senator from the convention floor at the Pepsi Center.

"It will be exciting," Noonan said. "The challenge was to get people in Arapahoe and Douglas County to know me. It was fun meeting everybody, and fun getting people to vote for me."

Noonan is a veteran of South Jeffco politics, having worked for the county Democratic Party for years. She made an unsuccessful bid for the state Senate from District 22 in 2006. But the Democratic convention that will descend on Denver Aug. 25-28 is the first national convention she will experience in person.

"What better year to get involved?" Noonan asked. "This is going to be past entertainment."

She's also looking forward to hearing what protesters have to say. Estimates vary, but at least 10,000 demonstrators are expected, and their efforts to make a significant impact on the convention and its attendees have been in the news for months.

"I intend to go and listen to all the protesters to show them that we're interested in listening to their voices too," Noonan said, adding that she will encourage other delegates to talk with protesters as well.

“(Listening to the protesters’ views) takes away the opportunity to be naughty," Noonan said. "I grew up in the ‘60s, and I know what naughty looks like. We need to get beyond that."

The convention itself has taken on a new level of intrigue with the announcement that Obama's main primary rival, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, will submit her name for a floor vote. The move comes after negotiations between the primary rivals to find a way to recognize the millions that voted for Clinton during a long and sometimes bitter primary campaign.

Noonan is pleased that Clinton supporters will have a voice at the convention and hopes it will heal any rifts that may have opened during the primaries.

"I hope everybody is going to be gracious," Noonan said.

Noonan admires Clinton but decided to support Obama.

"I'm really glad she did as well as she did," Noonan said. "I was excited to see (the primary) go as long as it did."

Talk about the primary battle dragging on too long, and that Clinton should have dropped out earlier, does not sit well with Noonan.

"This way everybody got involved; everybody expressed themselves through votes," Noonan said. "That's the way it ought to be."

Noonan is thrilled to be part of a convention that will nominate the first African-American to a major-party ticket in American history.

"I've lived my 60 years … and I'm so happy and excited to have this," Noonan said. "I didn't think in my lifetime we would be nominating an African-American to be president. I honestly thought it would never happen. I wasn't sure a woman would ever get there."

Noonan said that while Clinton did not win the nomination, she showed it's possible for a woman to win it, and that "the whole world has to be excited and impressed by this."

"This is real, and it's really exciting to see this country become so open to literally giving the opportunity to be president to everybody," Noonan said. "It's a huge step forward, I think."

Contact AJ Vicens at aj@evergreenco.com, and check www.columbinecourier.com for updates and breaking news.