Residents May Face Nearly 10 Major Voter Showdowns In 2020
~ by Rick Langenberg ~
Welcome to 2020.
And if you don’t like local, county, state and national elections, consider taking an extended cruise or a trip to a remote island and lengthy vacation to a place with no computers or smartphones, newspapers or televisions.
2020 may be remembered as the year of elections, so brace yourself for the invasion of campaign ads, slogans and voting details.
The Teller High County and lower Ute Pass area could bustle with close to 10 elections and contests throughout the year, with contested showdowns over picking the next presidential candidate, county commissioner and various state and national offices.
In addition, both Woodland Park and Green Mountain Falls will be holding their municipal elections.
And then, the election mania will reach a climax with the November showdown, expected to generate a possible record-breaking turnout
During last week’s inaugural meeting for 2020, Teller County Clerk and Recorder Krystal Brown made no pretensions that the coming year will provide their staff with plenty of challenges, with no letup in election preparations. She even quipped they will come “screaming into the new year.” Their office alone will grapple with three main elections, the presidential primary, the county and state primaries and then the grand general election.
That’s only a portion of the election fever facing local voters in the next few months.
The election craze gets started on March 3, with Teller’s first presidential primary in more than 20 years. Courtesy of a state ballot issue several years ago, local Democrats, Republicans and even unaffiliated voters (who decide to be a Democrat of Republican one day) can cast tallies on their pick for president. The primary will replace the process done in the past for presidential selections, which usually occurred during the caucuses.
The caucuses, which feature a variety of local gatherings, will still occur. Only now, these meetings won’t determine the presidential nominee of area Democrats and Republicans. In the past straw polls, held during these meetings, often determined which presidential candidate would get the party’s nomination in Colorado.
Under the change, Colorado will join the “Super Tuesday” showdown, with at least 10 states holding party primaries to determine the top presidential candidates.
The Republican primary won’t have much of an impact, with Donald Trump emerging as the prime GOP candidate for president. But on the Democratic side of the fence, Super Tuesday will play a big role in selecting the Democratic front-runner.
Colorado leaders are hopeful the change will elevate the state’s prospects in attracting national candidates to the state. “I think we can really highlight Colorado as a key state because among the Super Tuesday states, Colorado is one of the only ones that is also a competitive state for November — a purple state,” said Governor Jared Polis, when he announced the change last year.
The change is a byproduct of a 2016 ballot issue that authorized a presidential primary and allowed unaffiliated voters to partake in the process more.
Critics of the previous system argued that Colorado was pretty much out of the presidential loop due to the late timing of their regular primaries. Plus, the controversy over the caucus selections for presidential contenders often got too confusing.
County Commissioner Square-off
But a presidential primary is just part of the election fun. The caucuses, consisting of a series of local meetings, will be held on March 7. These meetings, held by both the local Republicans and Democrats, will determine the delegates for the respective parties’ county assemblies.
These gatherings will provide the first initial test for the candidates for county commissioner for District One and District Three.
For the District One County Commissioner race, a competition has ensued between Republicans Dan Williams and David Rusterholtz. And for District Three, the race is on between GOP contenders Phil Mella and Erik Stone.
These elections are wide-open as the current officeholders of these seats, Marc Dettenrieder and Norm Steen are term-limited and can’t seek re-election.
The caucuses often indicate the political level of support the commissioner contenders have, as they try to lobby for party delegates that support their candidacies.
Then, several weeks after the caucuses, the election showdown will focus on the county assemblies. And if history repeats itself, these commissioner seats may be determined at this stage, or at least a predominant front-runner will be declared. Although these commissioner positions aren’t decided until Nov. 2020, in Teller County the preliminary showdowns occur during the party caucuses and then the GOP County Assembly.
The GOP assembly is the first big test for county elections, as this is when candidates, who opt to go through the party process, must obtain a certain amount of delegate support to gain a spot on the June 30 primary ballot. In fact, they must obtain a minimum of 30 percent of the total delegate tally. The delegates are chosen previously during the caucus night.
The assemblies also showcase speeches for many other key state and national races and decisions on key party stands.
Candidates, though, can bypass the assembly process altogether and petition their way onto the ballot. This technique is getting more popular, but the guidelines for garnering signatures are quite strict and time-consuming.
If all of the above-mentioned candidates garner enough ballot support at the assembly, or successfully petition their way onto the ballot, then these races could be determined at the June 30 primary stage.
The election season will then move away from local party politics and drift into the arena of municipal elections, with Woodland Park and Green Mountain Falls holding city votes on April 7.
The city of Woodland Park faces a pivotal election with three council seats under contention and a mayoral spot. And already, the list of contenders is quite hefty, based on the number of potential candidates attending introductory meetings, hosted by the city. Plus, the city could experience one of the more competitive showdowns for mayor.
Current incumbent Mayor Neil Levy, who also owns the Swiss Chalet restaurant, has indicated he won’t seek re-election. This could set the stage for a race for mayor among council members Kellie Case, Noel Sawyer and possibly Val Carr for the spot. In addition, a number of newcomers may enter the competition.
In addition, voters may decide on possibly 11 ballot issues, dealing with changes to the city charter. These votes could be capped by key questions dealing with pay for council members/mayor, increasing the petition requirements for overturning a charter law and establishing term limits for members of boards and commissions.
The other potential questions are mostly house-keeping measures, such as outlining the duties of the police chief.
In Green Mountain Falls, voters will decide on a mayoral spot and three trustee positions. This will mark the town’s first election in four years, as the 2018 vote was cancelled due to the lack of contested candidates. The seats under contention are those held by Mayor Jane Newberry, and trustees Margaret Peterson, Katharine Guthrie and Tyler Stevens.
The big issues in Green Mountain Falls are roads, roads and roads and then roads. Plus, many concerns have focused on fiscal matters and a possible new annexation bid, encompassing nearly 32 acres.
GMF also has a new full-fledged town manager, with Angie Sprang taking charge. She is the first full-time town manager in several years for Green Mountain Falls.
The candidate submission process is similar in both towns. The candidate petition process kicked off early last week and extends until Jan. 27. That’s when candidates running for various seats must submit their petition with the proper amount of signatures from registered voters.
The actual vote will occur on April 7.
Summer Primary and General Election
The election season will then hit another peak on June 30. That could be the final D-day for the county commissioner races. That is also a key showdown on the Democratic side for the candidate who will challenge Republican Cory Gardner for Colorado’s U.S. Senate
seat. One of the leading Democratic candidates includes former presidential candidate and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. He is one of nearly 10 Democrats seeking to get into the political ring against Gardner, considered a vulnerable Republican in the Senate race.
And of course, the election mania culminates with the general election in November. If the pundits are correct, this could become one of the most watched elections in decades. It also will probably feature a record turnout since this is a presidential vote year, and with the enormous controversy surrounding the contest for the next commander-in-chief.
Plus, a number of key state contests will ensue.
So if you don’t like elections, consider booking your cruise immediately and don’t come back until mid-November 2020.