Dispatches from Tuesday’s Democratic precinct caucuses.
Split on Bennet and Romanoff, but united on the resolutions
By Polly Baca
Democratic precinct 521 – Denver
House District 5 in Denver convened at Greenlee Elementary School in the basement cafeteria at 7 pm. The Democratic gathering was called to order by former state Rep. Mike Cerbo, the executive director of the Colorado AFL-CIO, who read the party rules governing the caucuses. Candidates and their representatives were invited to address the caucus attendees and ask for their support. After hearing from the candidates, the Assembly was adjourned and each individual precinct reconvened in separate rooms to conduct caucus business.
Precinct 521 Committeeman John Maslanik was elected secretary of the caucus and I was elected Chair by the 19 people in attendance. A preference poll was taken to determine the number of delegates allotted to each of the U.S. Senate candidates. The result was 10 votes for Michael Bennet and nine votes for Andrew Romanoff, splitting the delegate votes to the Denver County Assembly two for Bennet and two for Romanoff.
The caucus participants divided into separate camps. The Bennet participants elected Cheryl Karstaedt and Ina Hambrick as delegates to the Denver County Assembly. Elected as Bennet alternates were Zee Ferrufino and Art Karstaedt.
The Romanoff participants elected Charles Nadler and myself as delegates and Hanna Weston and Pearl Alperstein as alternates to the Denver County Assembly.
Once the delegates and alternates were determined, the caucus participants came back together to consider resolutions. It was remarkable how united the participants were on the resolutions presented. Most of the resolutions were adopted by either a unanimous vote or a vote with only three or four participants voting “no” or abstaining.
The business of the caucus was completed by 8:40 pm with almost all of the caucus participants staying until the end.
Polly Baca is a former state senator and served as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee.
Hickenlooper makes no bones about supporting Bennet
By Anthony Bowe
Democratic precinct 832 – Denver
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper didn’t defer his support for candidates this year like he did in 2008. Back then, as an executive member of the Denver 2008 Convention Host Committee, Hickenlooper chose to side with neither presidential candidate Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton until after the primaries when one of them emerged as the nominee.
“He just didn’t raise his hand when it was time to vote,” said Linda Drake, chair of Hickenlooper’s Precinct 832 this year as well as 2008.
But on Tuesday, Hickenlooper and his wife, Helen Thorpe, just as quietly pledged their support for incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet with a simple raise of their hands.
Hickenlooper, the likely standard bearer for the Democrats in the race for governor, praised both Bennet and challenger Andrew Romanoff while speaking in front of more than 300 people from House Districts 7 and 8 in the Smiley Middle School auditorium only minutes prior to his vote.
“In terms of the primary between Michael Bennet and Andrew Romanoff, two of the most talented people I’ve ever known, I think the impressive thing is they have kept the discourse civil and positive,” the mayor said. “Once this primary is done, we all need to come back and support them. Whoever the winner is, we need to support them both.”
Hickenlooper, running unopposed for the Democratic nomination, had a calm night compared to Bennet and Romanoff. After joining neighbors in his precinct in Denver, he visited caucus-goers at Arapahoe High School. Hickenlooper repeatedly thanked voters and volunteers for attending the statewide caucus night and asked for widespread help with his campaign.
“Obviously this is the first time I’ve run ever run in a partisan race and certainly a statewide race. You guys all understand this stuff much more — you’ve all forgotten more than I’ll know about how to do stuff like this,” he said. “So I’m here to just ask for your help and I’m going to need a lot of support and a lot of help.”
The audience pulsed with loud applause throughout his two-minute speech. Hickenlooper finished his speech to a partial standing ovation.
Drake’s husband, Larry, said the mayor’s presence in his precinct energizes his neighbors.
“He doesn’t talk much. He just quietly watches usually. But he’s great to have,” Drake said.
Drake joked that when Hickenlooper was elected mayor, he and his wife figured “we’d get our streets plowed first, but it was the opposite.” But Drake praised Hickenlooper as a good neighbor and the mayor praised his neighborhood precinct right back.
“I wanted, just as your neighbor, to say thank you for being such good neighbors and also thanks for keeping the discourse so positive around Michael and Andrew,” he said.
The bustling lobby at Smiley Middle School indicated a landslide in caucus support for Bennet in 20 precincts of House Districts 7 and 8. Stickers and t-shirts donning his name seemed to far outnumber those promoting Romanoff. Even Hickenlooper endorsed Bennet.
“We were saying earlier that it was at least two to three for Bennet,” said Bill McCarron, 54, a Romanoff volunteer.
But when results rolled in, Romanoff, the presumed favorite of many longtime party activists, nearly pulled even with166 votes — only eight short of Bennet’s 174. Romanoff enjoyed a statewide victory Tuesday, beating Bennet 50.49 percent to 41.32 percent.
Democratic Party Chair Pat Waak, who was at party headquarters during the caucus activity, said the results were not surprising.
“We have two great candidates,” Waak said. “We figured it was going to be fairly close.
“It’s kind of an interesting thing to watch as it comes to play,” she said.
Voters at Smiley entered through doors peppered with competing blue campaign signs for Bennet and Romanoff. The darker blue Bennet signs went up first and were posted by Bennet supporter Stephanie Grilli, a resident of precinct 828.
“It could be pretty intense tonight because they are pretty charged in both camps,” Grilli said.
Overhearing Grilli’s comments, Romanoff supporter McCarron interrupted Grilli for a spot debate.
“Just because Bennet wasn’t elected doesn’t mean there’s no room for a vote and democracy,” McCarron said. “Bennet is not the czar just because he was appointed.”
Romanoff signs went up next, checkering the entranceway railings and doors with different shades of blue.
State Rep. Beth McCann spoke before Hickenlooper in the auditorium. She made appearances at three locations in District 8, discussing legislation she’s sponsoring this session.
“Unfortunately this year, as most of you realize, a lot of what we’ve been doing is trying to figure out how we can cut budgets, save money and how to collect money,” McCann said. “It hasn’t been the most fun session but I think we’re doing a lot of good work.”
McCann is running unopposed for reelection so far.
“It’s an easy vote for me this year, I don’t have an opponent so I hope you’ll all support me,” she said.
Attendance at Smiley’s caucus was cut to a third from 2008 when over 900 people showed, said caucus organizer Walt Beckert. Although that year was defined by its high-energy excitement, Drake, precinct 832 chair, said this year’s attendance was almost a sigh of relief.
“We couldn’t even get around. We were walking around like this,” she said while pulling her arms into her chest and hands up to her chin. “People thought we were disorganized, but as a volunteer organization I’d say we did pretty well.”
For a non-presidential caucus, Waak said Democrat turnout was higher than in years past. Over 22,300 people attended caucuses this year, according to the Democratic Party, which was still waiting for reports from a small number of precincts on Wednesday. In 2004 about 10,000 people came out to caucus and in years prior, Waak said, only three to five thousand would attend.
“Some precincts thought the turnout was very low but they were comparing it to 2008. That was a phenomenal turnout,” she said.
This year’s event at Smiley went without a hitch and most precincts finished their meetings between 8:30 p.m. and 9 p.m.
First year caucus attendee Godson Beaugelin, 36, a University of Colorado political science student and member of Precinct 703, said he was thrilled by the festivities.
“I enjoy the first time — met people and hear people talk, hear their voices and what they want and that’s pretty cool,” said Beaugelin, a Haitian who first voted in 2003 after receiving American citizenship. “I need to know more about the system.”
Beaugelin, who lost several cousins and friends in the Haiti earthquake, said he’s voting for Bennet because he was the only candidate he knew about going into the caucus.
“I didn’t know anything about Romanoff. I didn’t know about his policy, I didn’t know what he’s going to do. I choose Bennet because I got his card in the mail, visited his Web site and I think that sounds good.”
Anthony Bowe is a graduate of the CU Journalism School. He worked as an intern for The Washington Times before joining The Colorado Statesman this year as an intern.
Capitol Hill Dems favor Romanoff for U.S. Senate, and Thrun for HD 5
By Jason Krueger
Democratic precinct 534 – Denver
There were 154 Democrats representing 12 precincts who caucused Tuesday, March 16 at Morey Middle School in Denver. The big draw was to see which candidates for U.S. Senate and House District 5 had Capitol Hill’s support. Both U.S. Senate candidates vied for delegates to the Denver County Assembly coming up in April. The House District 5 candidates tried to generate momentum for their campaigns, leading up to the county assembly.
The 23 caucus-goers in Precinct 534 were equally divided in their preference for U.S. Senate. The precinct assigned three delegates to Michael Bennet, and two delegates to Andrew Romanoff. However, Capitol Hill Democrats clearly favored Romanoff overall, who earned 95 delegates to the county assembly; Michael Bennet earned 59 delegates. Romanoff, a former caucus attendee, has earned the respect of many noteworthy players in the Capitol Hill area including Chris Laughlin, who gave an impassioned speech on Romanoff’s behalf. However, Bennet has outpaced Romanoff in fundraising, which may make the difference in the August primary.
Capitol Hill also clearly demonstrated its preference for its favorites to replace the term-limited HD 5 Democrat, Joel Judd. Dr. Mark Thrun, Democrat, was overwhelmingly favored in the Precinct 534 straw poll — a general precinct-by-precinct preference poll. Crisanta Duran, another long time HD 5 Democrat, had moderate support. JJ Swiontek, a current Democrat who was a former Republican, had at least one supporter in the precinct, and Jose Silva, Democrat, was not represented.
There were a significant amount of “uncommitted” voters who did not express a preference as to who will replace Judd in the House of Representatives. No doubt these uncommitted voters caught the attention of Dr. Thrun and Ms. Duran — the two front-runners. In the months leading to the August primary, Capitol Hill can expect Thrun and Duran to be knocking on doors asking for support.
The next opportunity for the U.S. Senate and HD 5 candidates to generate momentum will be at the Denver County Assembly on Saturday, April 10, from 9:30am- 2:00pm, at the University of Denver Ritchie Center, 2201 East Asbury Ave. in Denver.
Jason Krueger is the fundraising officer of the Denver Young Democrats and is pursuing a law degree at the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law.
Bennet couldn’t attend own precinct caucus, but it became a family affair
By Jimy Valenti
Democratic precinct 853 – Denver
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
Bennet couldn’t attend his own precinct caucus, but it became a family affair
Nearly 300 Denver Democrats from 23 precincts gathered in the East High gymnasium Tuesday night for their biennial caucuses. Attendees selected delegates to attend the county assembly on April 10 while gauging support for two U.S. Senate Democratic candidates through preference polls.
Both U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff reside in Denver, but it was Romanoff who came out on top, with 60.05 percent of Denver preference poll votes while Bennet, who was appointed to the Senate in early 2009 by Gov. Bill Ritter, received 35.53 percent, with 4.42 percent undecided. Bennet also trailed statewide 41.72 percent to Romanoff’s 50.87 percent with 8.14 percent undecided.
Many caucus participants entered East High wearing a Romanoff sticker or waving Bennet signs, but Harriet Hogue was still undecided before the night’s preference poll.
Hogue has attended caucuses since the early 1970s and typically doesn’t support any candidate until she hears what people have to say about them at the caucus. Hogue said she considers the U.S. Senate election the most important race this year and stressed the importance of people’s voices being heard.
“This is the point where my opinion can make as much of a difference as my vote,” Hogue said. “There is too much hysteria going on right now. People need to calm down and maybe, I don’t know, get a life.”
Virginia Purvis-Smith and her husband, Terry, attended their first caucus since back in the early 1970s after learning Republican Scott Brown won the recent Massachusetts U.S. Senate seat.
Terry Purvis-Smith said he came to keep the Democratic momentum alive after President Obama’s election almost a year and a half ago.
“We want to show what happened with the presidential election wasn’t a fluke,” Terry Purvis-Smith said.
“My wake up call was the Massachusetts Senatorial race and at that point I said, ‘I have got to stay active,’” Virginia Purvis-Smith explained.
“I think of the Tea Party as an acronym for The Emerging Anarchy Party. It just really alarms me.”
The historic high school is only a few blocks away from Bennet’s Congress Park home, but Bennet was unable to attend as he was in Washington, D.C. on Senate business. His wife, Susan Daggett, addressed the crowd with their three young children at her side.
“When the tea party crowd was out screaming at him and calling him a Bolshevik and a Socialist he was standing up in support of health care reform and he was standing up in support of a public option,” Daggett told precinct caucusers about her husband.
Clif Croan attended his first caucus on Tuesday in order to support Romanoff. Croan said the former Speaker of the state House always kept his door open.
“I’ve never been able to speak with Bennet face to face, where I’ve talked with Romanoff probably a half a dozen times,” Croan said.
Croan said Bennet’s background as the Denver Public School Superintendent doesn’t qualify him for a senate seat, but he feels Romanoff is ready for the job.
“Andrew is a very talented leader,” Croan said. “When he was speaker he was able to handle the legislature. He really sought a middle ground.”
Nick Forman, one of Bennet’s neighbors in precinct 853, said he was disappointed with Bennet as superintendent of Denver Public Schools.
“His manner of leaving that job and moving on, even with his first job half complete… I think we should not vote for him. I don’t mind being negative,” Forman said.
Mary Ammons said she is worried about people using fear and negativity for political gains.
“We have a lot of work to do to get this country moving in a positive direction. We have a lot of people who just like to be angry and just like to find an enemy,” Ammons said. “We can not succumb to the same kind of energy.”
Kevin O’Connor, also from Precinct 853, said he was undecided until he heard Bennet explain health care reform at a local Democratic fundraiser.
“He showed a deep understanding of the issue and I don’t want to replace such an impressive candidate,” said O’Connor.
Wally Broman said he didn’t think Bennet was a strong leader, causing Bennet’s wife, Daggett, to shake her head in disagreement.
“Bennet is not forceful enough,” Broman said. “He wants to put his thumb out to see which way the wind blows before coming to a decision.” Daggett and her three girls sat patiently awaiting the vote in Precinct 853. The precinct chairman asked for a show of hands in support of Bennet — 26 hands rose into the air before Daggett had to push her young daughter’s hand back down. That left 25, noticeably much larger than Romanoff’s contingent of 15.
Daggett and her girls were all smiles.
“I was really proud of him,” Daggett said afterwards. It was the first time she attended a caucus involving her husband. “It felt great.”
Daggett said that it has been wonderful to see her neighbors, friends and Denver’s Democrats come out and participate in the political process.
“I was a little nervous that people would feel so frustrated with Washington that they were just going to sit at home,” Daggett said.
Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, and Rep. Beth McCann, D-Denver, both visited multiple precincts at the high school promoting their Democratic agenda.
Romer, who has been at the forefront of medical marijuana legislation, jokingly said he tries to stay away from controversial issues and would rather promote his idea for installing streetcars on Colfax Avenue.
“Colfax could be the most livable street in America,” Romer said.
McCann said that although it sometimes looks like the Legislature is only involved in budget cutting, Democrats have worked on productive legislation this session. She mentioned Democratic attempts to increase the renewable energy standard, close multiple coal fired power plants and clarify river rafter rights.
Patti McLaughlin, the finance chair for House District 8A, was busy organizing the evening. She predicted Bennet would have a tough time garnering support among politically active Denver Democrats who have worked with Romanoff for years. She turned out to be right as Romanoff took 60.05 percent of the city’s votes.
“These people have a long history of working with Andrew,” Daggett acknowledged. “We have been
working very hard to convince people that Michael is doing a great job and they need to judge Michael based on what he’s done and what he’s delivered for Colorado and what he’s going to be capable of delivering in the future.”
The caucus can be a good gauge for how popular particular candidates are, but their true function, says McLaughlin, is to send 1704 delegates to the April 10 Denver County assembly and then to the state Democratic Party assembly May 22. McLaughlin said that she hopes delegates will stay committed for the full two years and act as their precinct’s ongoing liaison for multiple Democratic candidates.
Jimy Valenti is a graduate of CU’s Journalism School and is an intern at The Colorado Statesman.
A bit of a liberal ‘tea party’ going on at north Aurora caucus
By Kim Harrell
Democratic precinct 191 – Aurora
We were women and men; gay and straight; civilian and ex-military; black, white and bi-racial; 40-something to 80-something; union, state employees, self-employed and retired. We all represented our precinct in House District 30C. Our caucus took place at North Middle School in north Aurora, in the shadow of the Anschutz Campus at Fitzsimons.
I came prepared to sway people to support Andrew Romanoff and it turned out I didn’t need to. Out of the seven folks present, six supported Romanoff without hesitation. The one who was not committed to either candidate, but had been blind sided by Bennet literature and phone calls, was open to hear the rest of us out. Each of us ‘testified’ to why Romanoff and not Bennet.
There was respect and polite attentiveness to each person who spoke briefly. I gave an impassioned testimony about Romanoff being one of us; he could sit here with us today and understand what we were talking about. We talked about gay rights, health care reform and corporate donations. The consensus was Bennet had not ‘earned’ his Senate seat, he had bought it one way or another and we did not like that, none of us. It was clear we wanted to pick who would represent us. The one caucusee remained uncommitted but Romanoff won the straw poll easily. We will send four delegates to the county (Adams) assembly in 11 days.
If I am honest, there was a bit of a liberal ‘tea party’ going on here. The establishment candidate was out, the regular guy was in or at least the one who seemed the most ‘regular’ to us. The supporters agreed that ‘out of state money’ to support a campaign was a big turn off as was flip-flopping on health care.
There was literature on the table for both Senate candidates, the Representative (Ed Perlmutter); Adams county coroner, clerk and commissioner. There were a few pieces from the candidates who are vying for the nomination for the state representative to run against incumbent Kevin Priola, a moderate Republican. There were no
refreshments and a ‘bucks bag’ was passed around to offset the costs of renting the facility. Really? We all pitched in with out question and finished at 8.30 pm.
In total, the whole cafeteria was filled with about 50 people to caucus for about six to eight precincts. It was a low turnout from 2008 but it was nice to see full tables and civil debate and representation. On to the assembly!
Kim Harrell owns East End Applied Arts in the Original Aurora arts district, where she practices silversmithing and jewelry design.
A nice caucus, along with Andrew’s mom!
By Pam Bennett
Democratic precinct 553 – Arapahoe County
Someone commented about it being a lovely night for a caucus.
As several of us walked from the parking lot at South Middle School in Aurora, a common question was “Is this the right way?”
“Yes, have you been to a caucus before?” someone else asked.
Several of the women walking with me had not attended a caucus before, so I helped them out with a little advice. “It will be a bit chaotic, but it is really confusingly straightforward and you will have a lot of fun.”
The cafeteria was very full, and there was the nice fragrance of home cooked and KFC dinner in the air. House District 42 has a tradition of having a potluck dinner before caucus, a way of keeping the home feeling even though we have a lot of homes in one place now.
For the caucus I was elected secretary and Heather Ayres was elected chair. She ran our precinct and helped with Precinct 541 all evening. At the important 7 p.m start time we had six people sitting at our table for 553 and one for 541. We were back to normal; the 2008 Obama campaign overwhelmed the caucuses, 553 had about 20 people then. I wish they could have remained involved in party politics.
Overall there were about 200 attendees this evening. Most were friends that I have known for many years. A few new faces were there, such as the women who walked in with me, but many were old hands and believers in the political process.
With Heather Ayres running our precinct we were able to make progress and it ran a lot smoother than in the other precincts. She is good. Roaming around the precinct tables was a Bennet supporter. I don’t know what he might have been expecting, but there are a lot of teachers in politics and Bennet’s performance as superintendent of Denver Public Schools became a prime talking point.
During the straw poll we came up with two Bennet supporters and four Romanoff supporters. I expected something like that, not only at our precinct, but at all precincts in the county. The margin was maintained when we voted for delegates. Our precinct was easy because there were six delegate positions for county assembly and six attendees.
The call went out for speakers for the candidates. The only contested race for us is U.S. Senate. I had my back to the dais when I heard a woman talking about Andrew Romanoff. It only took a couple of words from her for me to recognize the voice coming over the sound system — it was Andrew Romanoff’s mother! She was great. Following her at the microphone was Rep. Karen Middleton who talked on behalf of Bennet.
We elected Heather Ayres and Connie Trone as our precinct committee persons for the next two years. It is good to have experienced and dedicated people running our precinct and helping elect Democrats to office.
During the voting on resolutions we were pretty much in consensus on most of them. However, we did have differences on several of the individual resolutions, with abstentions by a few and several “no” votes on others. This year’s resolutions were good, such as withdrawal from Iraq, which passed in our precinct. The companion to that resolution, to pull out of Afghanistan, was not well accepted. This is why caucuses are so much fun — people attending them are well-informed citizens and know the issues facing us.
We wrapped up the evening at a comfortable time of 8:30 pm.
It was a very nice evening for a caucus.
Pam Bennett is a past candidate for Aurora City Council and a member of the Aurora Veterans Affairs Commission. She received a 2010 American Red Cross Award Special for volunteer service.
Decorations, goody bags and We the People
By Debbie Fischer
Democratic precinct 454 – Arapahoe County
My political life began as a result of reading “The Audacity of Hope” at which time I became passionate about electing Barack Obama into office. I was a precinct captain, and became a delegate for President Obama. Last night was the second caucus I attended. I am proud to say I am a precinct captain for Andrew Romanoff, the former Speaker of the Colorado House who led the Democrats to our first majority in the State House in over 30 years. Andrew is a man of Integrity who does not accept any PAC money, therefore I believe he is the best man to represent us in Washington D.C.
I arrived at Overland High School in Aurora at 5:30 p.m. with Rally for Romanoff signs, stacks of Romanoff literature, printouts, Romanoff buttons, masking tape, and a passion to Rock the Vote for Andrew! We immediately commandeered the first table available for the candidates. I, and volunteers, began decorating the wall behind the table with as many Romanoff signs as we could fit. We then posted unity signs in the spaces between. Thank you to Michelle Foster who provided us with the PDF file and idea. Thank you to Maria Delgado, second vice chair of the Arapahoe County Dems, for printing our unity fliers.
Bennet supporters arrived shortly after. They also decorated their wall. We hugged, shared masking tape, and briefly shared support stories. Nancy Jackson, candidate for county commissioner, dropped off goody bags at the Romanoff table, Bennet table and at all of the precinct tables in the lunch room. John Showalter directed us to set up the precinct markers, and orchestrated what needed to be done. Dale Nichols and Karlton Culig greeted supporters and worked furiously on site setup. I spotted Arnie Shultz, treasurer of the Arapahoe County Dems House District 41 in attendance, as well. We all worked as a team to achieve this goal.
People began arriving shortly thereafter. I was thrilled to see the supporters grabbing up Andrew’s literature and buttons. At that time I knew Andrew would take Arapahoe County. I escorted Romanoff and Bennet supporters to their tables. The lunchroom was filling up rapidly. We commented on the large number of caucus-goers in attendance. We then were reminded of the 2008 caucus and how we had so many people, we grabbed one of the side rooms to hold our meeting as it was standing room only, and no one could hear a word.
Sonja Scrima, accompanied by a power point presentation, then began to explain the process. She introduced Matt Salek, secretary, Pat Noonan, county commissioner, and Nancy Jackson running for Arapahoe county commissioner. State Rep. Nancy Todd spoke and circulated tables in support of Andrew Romanoff. Sen. Suzanne Williams was also introduced and spoke.
At 7 p.m. it was time to begin. Larry Steele gave me much needed help in conducting the caucus. He instructed us to sign in on the Arapahoe County lists provided and mark support for our preferred candidate. He then helped me through the process of electing him to take over the meeting. Once that was done, I sighed with relief.
We then took a straw poll, however all supporters at our table had their minds made up. A final vote was quickly called: eight for Romanoff and seven for Bennet.
Larry and his daughter did the math in their head and stated that there would be three delegates and three alternates for Romanoff and two delegates and two alternates for Bennet.
We then divided into two groups to determine who was able to attend the county assembly and move their candidate forward. We then reviewed the caucus resolutions and people voted on the Colorado Democratic Party platforms, Election/Legislative Reform, Foreign Policy, Economic conditions, Health Care, ethics/human rights, and environment. Larry and I finished up the necessary paperwork and turned it in about 8:30. As we were leaving, there were still a few large tables voting.
I was thrilled to see the large number of people who took their time to be a part of the democratic process. It was noted that before the 2008 election you would see very few people attend. I believe President Obama and his grassroots supporters fired up this country to get involved through his message of Change. It is up to WE THE PEOPLE to make change happen, as no elected official can do it alone. I encourage all of us to stay active on a community level and help repair this country and the world by banning together to meet the needs of so many worthy causes.
Debbie Fischer is an Arapahoe County Democratic activist.
Assistant Majority Leader in House helped former Speaker of the House
By Skyler McKinley
Democrat – House District 26 – Lakewood
In predicting the turnout for Tuesday’s Democratic Party Caucus, Colorado House District 26 chair Todd Strickland noted, “It’s anyone’s guess, really.” By the end of the night, 256 Democrats showed up for the district wide caucus held at Alameda High School in Lakewood, the same location as in 2008. In comparison, this assembly had a much sparser, if healthy, attendance rate, and was, as noted by one caucus-goer, “a lot older this year.” Indeed, 2010’s meeting lacked the youthful flair of two years ago, and as I made my way through the process, one attendee noted her surprise at my age by asking what compelled me to attend since I was “clearly under 60.”
After assembling in the school’s cafeteria, state Rep. and House Assistant Majority Leader Andy Kerr addressed the crowd, describing the work he and his party have been doing at the state house. Kerr, a Romanoff supporter, and state Sen. Betty Boyd, caucusing for Bennet, stressed the importance of party unity coming out of the Senate primary. Both emphasized the necessity of voting for Democrats all the way down the ballot, though Boyd noted that this is the first year that she was not a candidate for office at the caucus due to the expiration of her term in 2012.
Following these remarks, the group slowly dispersed to the respective gathering places for each precinct throughout the school.
Attendance was not equally spread across the house district, however; some precincts reached double-digits while others had only one or two Democrats in attendance. Though there were many confused caucus-goers at the beginning of the night, as the evening progressed, things started to flow more smoothly.
Attendees were quick to vote on and recommend specific planks to the party platform before beginning the straw poll process for the house district’s only candidate primary, that pitting former state Speaker Andrew Romanoff against Senator Michael Bennet in the race for the U.S. Senate.
In the end Romanoff prevailed; of the 256 Democrats in attendance, 146 pledged support for the former Speaker, with 99 in the Bennet camp and 11 undecided. This 57 percent to 38 percent win may well have been aided by Rep. Kerr’s endorsement of Romanoff. Kerr, who served with Andrew in the General Assembly, sent out a robo-call promoting the Romanoff campaign earlier in the week to likely caucus-goers.
On the whole, HD 26’s caucus was notable primarily for the good spirits amongst all in attendance. There were no conflicts between Bennet and Romanoff supporters, and all the activists pledged their support for local candidates like Jefferson County Commissioner Kathy Hartman, who’s running for another four-year term. While a lack of volunteers and the high turnout led to a some rockiness this year, Strickland believes that “the tone of this year’s caucus was one of passionate respect” and is confident that “Democrats will unite behind their nominee for the US Senate.”
Skyler McKinley works as a new media consultant in Denver. This was his second caucus. His website is www.skylermckinley.com
Balloons, pinwheels, signs and cookies and an ‘after-caucus’ party!
By Nancy Cronk
Democratic precinct 309 – Aurora
Approximately two hundred voters from House District 39 arrived to cast their vote at Grandview High School for former Speaker Andrew Romanoff or U.S. Senator Michael Bennet. This was my third Democratic caucus, and much like my first, years ago. In 2008, we enjoyed a turnout of several thousand people, filling the parking lot of the high school, neighborhood strip malls and side streets with cars, and filling many of the school’s classrooms. This time, our entire caucus met in the school cafeteria.
I arrived an hour early to set up. Immediately inside the doors were three tables: one for candidate Michael Bennet, one for Congressional District 6 candidate Lt. Col. (ret.) John Flerlage, and one for Andrew Romanoff. Michael Bennet’s table was covered with a blue tablecloth, five bunches of helium stars-and-stripes mylar balloons, and red-white-and-blue pinwheels attached to centerpieces. Surrounding the table was a large display with Bennet signs, Obama signs and signs saying, “Working Together For Change.” There were several plates of cookies, as well as numerous pieces of literature and a letter from the President of the United States, Barack Obama, explaining his endorsement. A young volunteer stood behind the table wearing a Bennet shirt and offering people cookies, while another young shirt-wearing Bennet intern offered passers-by Bennet stickers. John Flerlage’s table was also covered and had cookies and literature. The Romanoff table was bare, holding just three stacks of campaign literature. Later, the Romanoff
volunteer manning the table added Romanoff placards to the front of the table.
Thirty-seven tables, one for each precinct, were surrounded by eight chairs each. My precinct, number 309, had nine attendees, so we pulled up an extra chair. I was elected Chair. A straw poll showed eight Bennet supporters and one Romanoff supporter. According to the rules, Romanoff would need one more supporter to meet the fifteen percent threshold, which did not happen. I encouraged the one Romanoff supporter to call friends and neighbors to come if she wished, and she did make a few calls. Meanwhile, I suggested we go around the table and each person explain why they supported their candidate. Most participants were motivated by Bennet’s support of the public option and work on health care reform. By the time of the final vote, the ninth person changed her position to Bennet, and our precinct elected three delegates and three alternates for Michael Bennet.
We elected precinct committee people and pledged to all work together as a team to help them distribute literature and have candidate house parties prior to the general election. Several members wrote down platform concerns, such as humane immigration reform and reforming corporate influence of elections, and submitted their opinions with our precinct results. Our group was one of the last groups to leave the caucus site. We left with hugs and a promise to work together to get-out-the-vote of Democrats in our neighborhood, regardless of which Senate candidate would be on the ballot in November.
After caucus, I drove to Senator Bennet’s home, where his wife Susan held an informal “after caucus” party. We watched the results come in from counties around the state, intrigued that Senator Bennet did especially well in both the most conservative and the most liberal counties (El Paso, Larimer and Boulder). Everyone there was pleased with the results, posing for photos with their thumbs up. We knew the caucus was a measure of Andrew Romanoff’s base — state Capital insiders and long-time party officials, and that Romanoff was projected to win in a landslide. Instead, Senator Bennet was competitive, which was a “big win” by Bennet-supporter’s standards. We capped off the evening watching soon-to-be released Bennet commercials, toasting to a great campaign and six more years with Senator Michael Bennet representing Colorado.
Nancy Cronk is a progressive activist and organizer in Arapahoe County. She is Senate District 27 Democratic chair and designs Web sites for progressive groups.
Recalling my first caucus, when Gary Hart was first elected
By Miller Hudson
Democratic precinct 834 – Denver
My 19th Colorado party caucus was vastly different from my first in 1974. I was living in North Denver at the time and the Democratic precinct organization was still firmly under the control of the Pomponio machine despite the fact they had taken a thrashing from the McGovern insurgency in 1972. After I rang the bell at my caucus location the door was cracked and I was asked what I wanted? When I replied I was there to attend my Democratic caucus the door closed and I could hear whispering voices. I was then asked for my name and address and the door closed again. Grudgingly, I was admitted when it became clear that I wasn’t going to leave.
Perhaps a dozen elderly Democrats sat in the living room. Throughout the evening many of the proceedings were conducted in Italian. It was quite evident I was regarded as an intruder. Needless to say, I was neither elected as a delegate nor a committeeman. Nonetheless, four years later I would be elected to the Colorado Legislature. Democratic politics were changing. Pat Schroeder had been elected in 1972 and Dick Lamm, Gary Hart and Tim Wirth would all win elections in 1974. Dennis Gallagher was elected to the Legislature from my district as a renegade. The politics of exclusion was coming to an end. In 1976 I would round up some younger neighbors and get myself elected as Democratic committeeman.
Two years ago it was difficult to force your way into the East High School gymnasium. Obama supporters filled the bleachers right up to the rafters. Near chaos prevailed. Precinct 834 drew 123 Democrats, only 18 of whom supported Hillary Clinton. More than 20 Obama supporters ran for the five available delegate slots at the county convention in 2008. Just 35 Democrats attended the precinct caucus this year, a respectable showing pumped up by Romanoff and Bennet phone banks together with some door-to-door canvassing. A dozen District 8 precincts were warmed up by pitches from Susan Daggett on behalf of her husband, the U.S. Senator, and a spokesman for Andrew Romanoff.
Then we broke into separate precinct caucuses and an initial straw poll showed a 2-1 Bennet advantage in Precinct 834. Polite speeches were offered on behalf of each candidate, with comments from both speakers acknowledging the strengths of both candidates. This is a choice many Democrats wish they weren’t being forced to make. No votes changed. The preference poll was 22-13 in favor of Michael Bennet. Very little acrimony could be detected and the Bennet faction selected its four delegates and alternates, while the Romanoff supporters identified a pair of delegates to the Denver County convention.
The two groups reconvened to unanimously (with one abstention) support a recommendation to the platform committee calling for an amendment to the U.S. constitution prohibiting corporate donations in election campaigns at all levels. We were home in time to watch our TIVO’d episode of LOST before the news!
Miller Hudson, if you don’t already know him, is by now a longtime Denver Democratic Party activist. A former legislator, he currently opines on the political scene when asked.
Two delegates each for Bennet and Romanoff, one for uncommitted
By Adam Platt
Democratic precinct 513 – Denver
Tuesday’s caucus was only the second that I’ve attended since moving back to Colorado after law school four years ago. While this year’s Precinct 513 Democratic Party caucus did not draw anywhere near the more than one hundred attendees that showed up for the 2008 presidential election caucuses, attendance was still relatively good at 36.
Caucus attendees elected local precinct committeeperson Rich Browne caucus chair, and Lisa Bardwell secretary. After straw polls regarding the candidates for U.S. Senate and the local House District 5 and Senate District 34 races, caucus goers divided themselves into separate sections of the room according to Senate candidate preference.
The final tally was 17 votes for Bennet; 13 for Romanoff; and 6 for uncommitted. As we counted it up at the end of the caucus, that means that Precinct 513 will split its five county assembly delegates with two each for the Senate candidates, and one for uncommitted. Straw polls taken regarding the candidates for the state legislature appeared to indicate a clear preference for Senate District 34 candidate Lucia Guzman, with House District 5 candidate Mark Thrun leading the show of hands in his race, followed somewhat closely by Crisanta Duran, and more distantly by Jose Silva.
Adam Platt is vice president of the Denver Young Democrats and practices media and First Amendment law at Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz.
A flag from Obama’s DNC acceptance speech, and my 18-year-old son
By Susan Crites
Prowers County Democratic precincts – Lamar
Precincts of the western side of Prowers County (down on the Kansas state line, just one county away from the OK border) all met together in the cafeteria of Lamar High School. My son and I attended, and also brought along a senior who is one of our party’s active regulars. He needed a ride because our teeny under-funded public transportation organization has to scrape along during business hours only.
When we arrived, Mike carried the cookies we brought over to the refreshment area while I set up my laptop and got out the VAN lists and signs that gave each precinct a table. I was stationed to help people who didn’t already know find out what precinct they were in. In addition to the VAN lists sorted by precinct, I had a .pdf file from the state Dem headquarters that listed all registered Prowers Dems alphabetically, which worked a treat. We were soon all seated and ready to go.
We used this same lunchroom last caucus, and as I was going over the checklist, I remembered it had no flag. So I brought one along — my souvenir flag handed out to the crowd who attended Obama’s acceptance speech at Mile High Stadium in 2008. I didn’t make a very impressive color guard, but at least we had something to pledge allegiance at.
Turnout was lower than we hoped, only 24 people, though nine of the 10 eastern precincts were represented. Our county chair, Randa Davis-Tice, stood out in front and guided all the precinct tables through the initial official processes and paperwork. Next, people were invited to get up and speak about their preferred senatorial candidate. Three touted Andrew Romanoff and two urged votes for Michael Bennet. A paper ballot was taken, and the overall results were 13 for Romanoff, 10 for Bennet and one undecided.
This was my fourth caucus. It was special to me because my son Mike turned 18 in February. He has had an interest in politics ever since he became a fan of “Power” Dean in 2004. He’s ridden many parade floats, passed out a ton of literature and sat pretty patiently through a lot of meetings. He was thrilled to finally get to cast a vote!
We were done with caucus by 8 p.m. As the group dispersed, I emailed our results to state headquarters. We headed home, and I phoned a precinct captain who had been at the meeting of the three precincts in eastern Prowers (around Holly and Granada). They had 18 in attendance. Their voting went 13 for Romanoff, three for Bennet and two undecided. I emailed those in as well, and relaxed for the rest of the evening by skimming the Internet for updates from other places.
Susan Crites is a Democratic activist and blogger in Lamar.
The entire discussion at my caucus was astonishingly civil
By Elliot Goldbaum
Democratic precinct 406 – Aurora
Last night I attended the House District 41 Democratic precinct caucus at Overland High School in Aurora. I recently moved to Arapahoe County in 2009, and it was the first time that I have ever voted in an Arapahoe County election. This precinct caucus was different from the 2008 Denver County precinct caucus that I attended before I moved for many reasons — the most glaring of those being the fact that this year is a midterm election, and neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton were on the ballot. I live in Precinct 406, which is fairly large — it extends from Syracuse St. all the way to the John F. Kennedy golf course, and from Iliff Ave. down to S. Syracuse.
I arrived early to help hand out literature to the tables where each precinct was to have its caucus. I decided a long time ago to support Sen. Michael Bennet, even though I am a big fan of Andrew Romanoff, and I believe both men would make excellent nominees to go against the GOP in the fall. I was the first to arrive, but before 7 p.m., people began to trickle into the Overland High cafeteria. There were enough chairs for all of the different precincts, but just barely. I got to meet the other 12 caucus attendees, who were all very nice people.
Before the individual caucuses began, the party leadership for House District 41 had us say the Pledge of Allegiance. Next, Rep. Nancy Todd and her counterpart, Sen. Suzanne Williams, as well as outgoing Arapahoe County District 4 Commissioner Pat Noonan, addressed the crowd. All three women received polite applause as the crowd turned their attention to the business of the evening, and the party leadership began to lay out how the caucuses work. The preamble to the precinct caucuses was extremely well put together by the Arapahoe Dems. They had a Power Point presentation projected onto a screen so that everyone could see what was on the agenda. The only thing that dragged the evening along was a reading of the caucus rules by the HD 41 leadership, which everyone in my precinct agreed was unnecessary given the fact that all of the caucus packets contained the rules.
When the meeting began, the first order of business was to elect the caucus chair. A very nice gentleman nominated me, and I accepted after asking if there were any objections. We took a vote, and the decision to elect me was unanimous. Next we passed around the “hat” (it was really an envelope) asking for donations to defer the costs of the caucus. I then asked if anyone had anything to say in support of their candidates. Several people spoke very passionately about Andrew Romanoff — one woman praised his non-profit work, another said that she had met him, but that she hadn’t met Sen. Michael Bennet, and another woman said she appreciated his position that economic and social development in Afghanistan would be the best way to win over the hearts and minds of the Afghan people. Next, the Bennet supporters had their turn — I told my caucus that I initially supported Romanoff to be appointed, and that I was unsure about Bennet when he became the Senator, but that over the course of his first year in office, he had won me over. Another Bennet supporter pointed out that the Senator is the incumbent, and, in his opinion, hadn’t done anything to warrant being fired from his job. The entire discussion was astonishingly civil, and everyone at the table agreed that they would support the eventual nominee — for most of them, this was a no-brainer.
The last part of the caucus was the U.S. Senate preference poll, which Romanoff won 8-4, with one person voting undecided. At the very end, I was elected precinct committee person, and I pledged to be in touch with all of them as the primary and general elections neared. I was proud to exercise my right as a Colorado Democrat, and I was hopeful about going into the primary after seeing such a civil discourse at my own precinct caucus.
Elliot Goldbaum is a political blogger residing in unincorporated Arapahoe County.