For the first time in eight years, Teller and Ute Pass area Democrats will steal the show for “Caucus Tuesday,” set for this evening (March 1), and play a role in determining the successor to Barack Obama for the party’s presidential nomination.
So if you are one of the few Dems in the area, practice your yelling and lobbying ability, as you may need these skills tonight.
Local Republicans, though, will have a busy night themselves picking delegates to the county assembly on March 12, voting on resolutions and attending to important party business. This will play a dominating factor in determining who gets on the ballot for two county commissioner seats.
But for the Republican caucuses, the state GOP leadership decided to forgo presidential preferential polls, which takes Colorado out of the GOP limelight for Super Tuesday. This decision has sparked much criticism, with the Colorado GOP Party becoming only the third state that opted to delay its presidential tallies until delegates are selected to the state assembly.
The Dems, however, are doing presidential straw poll counts at every precinct location. Their timing couldn’t have been better as the two presidential Democratic candidates — Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state, and Bernie Sanders, the senator from Vermont — are engaged in a fierce battle for the party’s nomination. Political insiders are predicting a tight race in Colorado on March 1. It is one of 12 caucus or primary votes held on March 1, a “Super Tuesday” tally that could seal the deal for both party nominations.
“We are hoping for a big turnout on Tuesday evening,” said Michael Haase, secretary of the Teller County Democratic Party. “There is a lot of interest in this race.” Similar sentiments are echoed by state party leaders, who are flooding the media with releases and e-mails aimed at generating excitement for what is turning into a neck-and-neck horse race.
Comparisons are already being drawn with the Democratic caucuses of 2008, featuring a showdown between Clinton and Obama. The Colorado Democratic 2008 caucuses, including ones in Teller and the lower Ute Pass, showcased a wild and boisterous atmosphere, with crowded parking lots. Altogether, more than 120,000 Colorado Democrats participated in the 2008 caucuses throughout the state, according to state Democratic officials.
Party officials are hoping to match that figure for 2016, but concede that will be a tough mountain to climb due to the dynamics of the 2008 presidential race. “That was a pretty unique year,” admitted Rick Palacio, chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party, in a phone press conference last week. “We will probably be short of that.”
Obama prevailed in the Colorado Democratic caucus vote, a victory that helped propel his candidacy and helped him win the nomination and ultimately the presidency. According to Haase, more than 300 local Dems attended the caucus site in Woodland Park alone in 2008. This is a phenomenal number considering the low rate of Democrats in Teller County. He doesn’t know if those figures can be reached again on Tuesday, but expects a big turnout.
The Caucus Process
Caucus Tuesday will begin March 1 at 7 p.m. People participating, though, should get there about 6:30 p.m., according to local party leaders.
The Democrats will have three prime precinct locations. These include the library in Woodland Park, the library in Florissant and the Centennial Building in Cripple Creek. The Republicans have 13 precinct sites at public buildings and facilities throughout the county. For a detailed list of Republican sites, visit the Teller County Republican website at www.teller-gop.org.
For lower Ute Pass residents, the main location is set at the Ute Pass Elementary School.
The individual caucuses are designed as neighborhood-type meetings and grass-roots opportunities for citizens to get involved in the process. Party caucus-goers nominate delegates to various assemblies and conventions, address stands on certain issues and sometimes conduct informal polls. These gatherings, however, are controversial with proponents dubbing them as true democracy in action, while detractors cite their low attendance compared to the overall party numbers and contend it puts too much emphasis on party leaders.
For the Democrats, the big attention-grabber will become the tally for the top party candidate for president, done through a straw poll. This is done at each precinct site and usually features brief speeches by candidate supporters for each side, with time allotted for the political camps to try to change people’s opinions if they favor an opposing candidate. Caucus participants often will gather on one side of the room or another in declaring their voting preferences, but the specific rules are determined by a precinct captain.
Altogether, Colorado allocates 78 delegate votes for the national contest. These are picked, according to the sentiments of the straw poll done on Tuesday night. Last week, Palacio made it clear that Colorado Dems would pick a clear winner on Tuesday night.
Both Sanders and Clinton have pursued aggressive advertising campaigns and conducted strong ground-games, according to local Democrats. According to a report in The (Colorado Springs) Gazette, Sanders has already invested $1.6 million in campaign ads in Colorado, while Clinton has spent $750,000. They both have been quite visible in the state and region.
Last week, former President Bill Clinton did a big rally for his wife, Hillary Clinton, at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. Sanders has been quite active in organizing neighborhood gatherings, often called “Feel the Bern.” Sanders has strongly rallied behind such issues as the problems with the national campaign finance system, income inequalities and the decline of the middle class. He is extremely popular with young voters and by progressive and liberal Democrats. Clinton, meanwhile, has stressed her experience and has taken more mainstream Democratic positions on key issues. She has gained strong support among African-Americans and many minorities.
So far, Clinton has a slight edge in the race, but is still trying to recover from a devastating loss in the New Hampshire primary. Clinton, though, scored a huge victory in the South Carolina primary on Saturday, a sign that she may become the front-runner in the race. According to political insiders, both the Democratic and Republican party nominations could be determined by the results of Super Tuesday.
For local Republicans, the main items of business will include picking delegates to the county, house and senate district assemblies and the state assembly, along with voting on key resolutions. The only county races are those involving two county commissioner seats. Republican Incumbents Norm Steen and Marc Dettenrieder have announced intentions to seek re-election.
For more information about the caucus process, visit the websites of both the Republican and Democratic parties.