The Battle Of Aspen
Below is an excerpt of an article that originally appeared in RS 67 from October 1, 1970. This issue and the rest of the Rolling Stone archives are available via Rolling Stone Plus, Rolling Stone’s premium subscription plan. If you are already a subscriber, you can click here to see the full story. Not a member? Click here to learn more about Rolling Stone Plus.
Two hours before the polls closed we realized that we had no headquarters–no hole or Great Hall where the faithful could gather for the awful election-night deathwatch. Or to celebrate the Great Victory that suddenly seemed very possible.
We had run the whole campaign from a long oaken table in the Jerome Tavern on Main Street, working flat out in public so any one could see or even join if they felt ready … but now, in these final hours, we wanted a bit of privacy; some clean, well-lighted place, as it were, to hunker down and wait …
We also needed vast quantities of ice and rum – and a satchel of brain-rattling drugs for those who wanted to finish the campaign on the highest possible note, regardless of the outcome. But the main thing we needed, with dusk coming down and the polls due to close at 7 PM, was an office with several phone lines, for a blizzard of last-minute calls to those who hadn’t yet voted. We’d collected the voting lists just before 5:00–from our poll-watcher teams who’d been checking them off since dawn–and it was obvious, from a very quick count, that the critical Freak Power vote had turned out in force.
Joe Edwards, a 29-year-old head, lawyer and bike-racer from Texas, looked like he might, in the waning hours of Election Day in November 1969, be the next mayor of Aspen, Colorado.
The retiring mayor, Dr. Robert “Buggsy” Barnard, had been broadcasting vicious radio warnings for the previous 48 hours, raving about long prison terms for vote-fraud and threatening violent harassment by “phalanxes of poll watchers” for any strange or freaky-looking scum who might dare to show up at the polls. We checked the laws and found that Barnard’s radio warnings were a violation of the “voter intimidation” statutes, so I called the District Attorney and tried to have the mayor arrested at once … but the D.A. said “Leave me out of it; police your own elections.”
Which we did, with finely-organized teams of poll-watchers: two inside each polling place at all times, with six more just outside in vans or trucks full of beef, coffee, propaganda, check lists and bound xerox copies of all Colorado voting laws.
The idea was to keep massive assistance available, at all times, to our point men inside the official voting places. And the reasoning behind this rather heavy public act–which jolted a lot of people who wouldn’t have voted for Edwards anyway–was our concern that the mayor and his cops would create some kind of ugly scene, early on, and rattle the underground grapevine with fear-rumors that would scare off a lot of our voters. Most of our people were fearful of any kind of legal hassle at the polls, regardless of their rights. So it seemed important that we should make it very clear, from the start, that we knew the laws and we weren’t going to tolerate any harassment of our people. None.
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