Top Stories of 2008, #7: Decision 2008


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A historic election in 2008 is story No. 7 on our Top 10 list. It was mainly a Republican victory in Utah, but in three counties, the majority voted Barack Obama for president.

For Democrats, it was an election year to remember. "We want to address the issues that are going to be affecting us when we grow up -- like climate change, the deficit, education; all these things that have just been ignored for the last eight years are really going to matter to us when we're older," said Oakley Gordon, president of the University of Utah College Democrats.

In mostly-Republican Utah, Obama supporters were victorious in a few Democrat-leaning areas: Salt Lake, Summit and Grand counties. It sparked a rare enthusiasm for politics.

"It's kind of a magical moment in the history of this country," Salt Lake City resident Sandra Wilkins said.

Utah Democrats saw the evidence of that excitement election night as souvenir seekers cleaned out anything to do with the 2008 election. That means bumper stickers, pins, buttons and of course signs.

"Well, it's historic, and those will be valuable in years to come," Wilkins said.

Wayne Holland, chairman of the Utah Democratic Party said, "I've never seen anything like it."

"I'm not surprised," said Craig Axford, deputy director of the Utah Democratic Party. "We've produced, here at the state party, 10,000 lawn signs in the past two and a half months."

Even for those who didn't vote the Obama-Biden ticket, this is a historic election. Obama is about to become the first African-American commander in chief. His platform of "change" struck a chord across the nation, especially in light of a sinking economy that got even worse as the campaign went on.

On election night, the presidential race was a sore subject for Republicans. But Gov. Jon Huntsman, a long-time John McCain supporter and friend, expressed optimism about the future.

"Although I voted Republican, I'm very proud at the significant barrier that's been crossed with Barack Obama; the way that my kids will learn from it, the way the rest of the world will watch our democracy and all of its imperfections play out and learn from it as well," he said.

The presidential election results had another effect: an unforeseen increase in gun sales, especially in the case of assault rifles. Those buying the guns said they were concerned Obama might try to outlaw them when he takes office. In Utah, ammunition sales also increased.

Since the election, President-elect Obama's cabinet picks altered the image he had during the campaign. He's enjoying the tail end of his Hawaiian vacation -- probably the last chance he'll get to relax for quite a while.

E-mail: rpiatt@ksl.com

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