Political football season kicks off in Teller and Colorado

Caucus and Assembly fever looming

~ by Rick Langenberg ~

The Super Bowl may have ended, and good riddance, Philly and New England fans.  Boo, and now get out of our face.  

But another wild and wacky time of political football is about to kick into full gear throughout Teller County and the state.

Despite all the publicity regarding the arrival of presidential primaries in Colorado due to the voters’ previous verdict to end the caucuses for president, this traditional and sometimes confusing system is still alive and well for most county, state and even national races. So get ready for the forthcoming political gun fire.  

And while much local attention has been focused on the city elections in Woodland Park, the next two months could determine the next Teller County commissioner for district 2 (currently held by Dave Paul) and Teller coroner, as well as determining other significant county seats. In addition, the dice will be cast for several key high profile races, such as the battle for the next Colorado governor to replace John Hickenlooper and the super competitive quest for the 5th Congressional District seat (currently held by Doug Lamborn). 

Both the Teller Democratic and Republican parties will hold their caucuses on March 6 at 13 locations (for representatives of each party). This is the first step in a political process that allows local party-goers to get more involved in picking their favorite picks for key races, holding straw polls and developing positions on significant party issues.

Caucuses are regarded as neighborhood meetings and they stem back to the times of our founding fathers. As Erik Stone, chairman of the Teller County Republican Central Committee noted, “Caucuses are vital to the political process for a number of reasons.  First – it is the most grass-roots form of political involvement.  It is neighborhoods coming together to accomplish a number of tasks.”

 

Proponents of the caucus party system say it allows citizens to play a definite role in the democratic process that they wouldn’t ordinarily have.  

The system, though, does have its critics and more candidates are bypassing the caucus process in the region, especially key candidates at state and national races. Already, several candidates for the District 5 congressional seat have opted to pursue the petition process and not partake in the caucuses. Critics complain that the caucus system represents good ol’ boy politics at its worst. 

Regardless of the mixed views, the caucus system is here to stay for most local, state and national races in Colorado.  

At the March 6 caucuses, party-goers will pick delegates to their respective party’s county assembly, the state assembly, the 5th Congressional District Assembly and other important political party bodies.  

Stakes are big for Republican candidates

Most political eyes on March 6 will focus on the county’s Republican gatherings. In order to win a county seat, nearly every candidate has to receive the support of either Republican voters or party leaders. Republican voters currently outnumber Dems by a 9,391 to 3,144 margin. Their dominance in Teller County politics continues at an astounding rate.   

These caucuses will serve as the first test for the county’s two contested elections for commissioner and coroner.

Commissioner contenders Carl Andersen,  a local business owner, and Bob Campbell, the current county treasurer, are vying for this position. Paul can’t run again due to term limits, and with no Democratic contenders, this high profile race could be determined within the next month.   

 

And for coroner, a competition has ensued between Kayla Daugherty and Richard Reason.  

 

At stake on caucus night for the Republicans are 100 delegate spots, and 50 alternate positions.  These will be selected on March 6.

And depending on the way the process unfolds, the competing candidates will have to decide whether to stay in the current political game, or possibly pursue the petition process. Between now and mid-March, the county candidates for seven spots (only two under contention) will try to lobby for delegate support.  

The caucuses serve as a prelude to the Republican assembly, scheduled for March 17 at Summit Elementary.

In past election cycles, the Republican assembly served as a do or die scenario for county candidates.  But that scenario has been changing, with several Republican contenders who ended up on the losing side at the assembly, gaining more momentum with GOP voters and winning their respective primaries.

Some prime examples include current assessor Betty Clark-Wine and former commissioner Bill “Buck” Buckhanan. They both got practically blacklisted by GOP leaders at the assembly, but advanced to the final primary stage through the petition process and ended as winners. However, most county office-holders in Teller go through the caucus and assembly process. In order to garner a spot on the primary ballot, slated for late June, a candidate must garner 30 percent of the total delegate tallies at the assembly. If they get less than 10 percent, they are out of the race altogether.  If they get between 10 and 30 percent of the delegate tallies, they can still petition their way to the finish line.      

Besides the contested candidates for county seats, other Republican  contenders include Jason Mikesell for sheriff, Krystal Brown for clerk and recorder, Mark Czulusta for treasurer, David “Colt” Simmons for assessor and Eric Simonson for surveyor.  All of the above-mentioned candidates are not being opposed. But that could change within the next few weeks.

 Candidate information is available using Colorado Sectretary of State’s “TRACER” system.  http://tracer.sos.colorado.gov

No Democratic candidates have entered the foray for county seats.

Heated state and national races

But the forthcoming caucuses are a lot more than just about the county races. Party-goers will take their first plunge into the heated competition for the governor’s race on both sides of the aisle. Nearly 15 Republican and Democratic candidates have entered the battle for governor. The competition is extremely tense because Hickenlooper, the Colorado governor for the last two terms, can not run again due to term limits. This position is extremely  high-profile. Hickenlooper, for example, is already considered a possible contender for the presidential race in 2020.  

And Republicans will also decide the heated race for the District 5 congressional seat, considered one of the safest Republican seats in the entire Congress. Four Republican contenders have entered the District 5 battleground, including Lamborn, El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn, state Sen. Owen Hill, and former Texas state judge Bill Rhea.  With the exception of Rhea, all of these congressional contenders appeared at a local GOP tent gathering in Teller County last August. That forum also featured the majority of the GOP candidates for the governor’s race.

Not just about Republicans

The Democrat caucuses usually hinge on state and national races. Just like the Republicans, the Democrats have a hefty field of contenders for governor.

Nationwide, the Democratic Party has been gaining ground across many state government circles throughout the country.  This is partially due to the divided sentiments regarding the Trump presidency and the normal trends for a forthcoming mid-term election.

As for local races, the Teller Democrats have not lobbied for any county candidates since 2008, the year Barack Obama was first elected as president. That’s when two Democrats challenged former commissioners Buckhanan and Jim Ignatius. Both Democratic contenders lost badly.  

But the Dem party has had a strong profile in the area, holding offices in Woodland Park in both 2008 and 2012 for Obama’s successful quest of the White House. Also, the national Democratic Convention was held in Denver in 2008, with the state assembly occurring in Colorado Springs the same year. That became a pivotal year for the Democratic Party in both Teller and El Paso counties. But the party never quite gained much momentum in overcoming the tough odds they faced in fighting the GOP voter dominance in the area.