Although final tallies won’t be cast until November, Teller County’s political season officially kicks off this week.
The political caucuses for both major parties are slated for Tuesday and Saturday respectfully. The caucus system, which stems from an age-old tradition, dating back to the time of our founding fathers, allows party members to participate at the grass-roots level. In past years, it even became the main showdown for presidential candidates attempting to gain the support of Colorado voters. But that is no longer the case due to a series of ballot-generated state changes approved by the voters.
Still, the caucuses, which amount to neighborhood meetings, play a big role in setting the stage for certain county, state and some national races.
The caucuses, at least for the Republican Party, serve as the first major political event, almost a prelude to the county assembly, slated for March 12 in Divide.
On a local level, Caucus Tuesday could determine the first test for candidates for the heavily contested County Commissioner District 2 seat, currently held by Bob Campbell. Campbell is being challenged within the Republican Party ranks by Tommy Allen, a military veteran for more than 20 years and part of an information/operations team for IXERO.
And for the Democrats, Dennis Luttrell of Divide, who actually was a former Teller commissioner in the 1980s as a Republican, has announced his candidacy. Luttrell, who held various elected positions in Massachusetts, returned to the area several years ago and has spent time on the planning commission.
The Democrats will hold both their caucuses and assembly on March 5, via Zoom. For details and to participate, visit the Teller County government website.
The process is much more complex for Teller Republicans. In fact, the party will host 14 caucus precinct gatherings throughout the county on March 1, with the lion’s share occurring at the Woodland park High School. For more information about the specific sites, visit the county government’s website and visit https://caucus.cologop.org.
During these meetings, approximately 100 GOP delegates will be chosen. This tally is quite important for the commissioner race, as these representatives will officially pick nominees for the primary ballot in late June. A number of county seats are up for grabs this year, but the commission showdown is the one being contested right now. These other uncontested GOP candidates include Stephanie Kees for clerk and recorder, Jason Mikesell for sheriff, Carol Kittelson for assessor, Mark Czelusta and Coroner Steve Tomsky.
The GOP County Assembly will start at 7 a.m. on March 12 at Summit Elementary.
In order to advance to the primary stage, a candidate from either party must garner at least 30 percent of the total delegate votes. If a candidate falls short of this threshold, but still gets between 10 and 30 percent of the tallies, he/she can still continue their candidacy by petitioning their way onto the ballot.
And another option for an elected office candidate is to bypass the caucuses and the assemblies altogether, and go through the petition process. This is a route that some candidates have preferred at the county and national level in recent years. For example, Congressman Doug Lamborn, the Republican incumbent for Colorado’s 5th Congressional District, has pursued this path repeatedly.
The caucuses also provide a forum for party leaders to discuss key issues.
The caucus system has sparked mixed reviews. Critics label this as an outdated good ol’ boy system that only benefits party leader and insiders. But proponents counter that they are an ideal forum for grass-roots participation, and really give folks from smaller communities more clout.
The caucuses and assemblies are just part the first phase of an active election season.
Woodland Park Election
The city of Woodland Park will be holding a pivotal municipal election on April 5.
The election, conduced through their mail-in ballot process, orchestrated since the early 1990s, will decide four council seats and the mayor position. This is a much larger number than past years due to key resignations and appointed positions.
Councilmember Robert Zuluaga and current Mayor Hilary LaBarre will both be running for mayor. Don Dezellem, Deann Bettermann, Frank Conners, Matthew Hayes, David Ott, Councilwoman Catherine Nakai, and Mayor Pro Tem Kellie Case will all be running to fill the four open council seats.
The municipal election is getting tense, as it will play a big role in what direction the city takes.
There will be a forum held on March 2 at the Woodland Park High School Auditorium featuring a few of council candidates
The Greater Woodland Park Chamber of Commerce forum, one of the more well-attended candidate events, will be held on March 16 at the city council chambers.