Tried and true tips on how to navigate the caucus process

The Colorado Statesman

Douglas County Republican Crista Huff isn’t the only one teaching voters how to navigate the caucus process — Republican presidential campaigns are training supporters in hopes of netting delegates via subsequent assemblies, and some of Huff’s past pupils are organizing classes of their own this year — but she’s been running classes for more than two years and sounds like she has the art down to a science.

“The people I train get very involved subsequently,” she said before a class last week in the living room of her Castle Pines home. “They get launched.”

For voters who want to influence which candidates appear on the ballot — and especially those who aren’t party stalwarts, already familiar with the terrain — there’s no better guide to cracking the code than Huff.

This year, Colorado Republican precinct caucuses start at 7 p.m. on Feb. 7, and kick off with a hotly contested presidential preference poll. Democrats convene their caucuses at 7 p.m. on March 6. Both Democrats and Republicans conduct party business at caucuses: designating two precinct committee people; selecting delegates to county, congressional district and state assemblies, beginning the process that elects delegates to this summer’s national conventions; recruiting election judges for the June primary and November general election; adopting resolutions that could wind up in party platforms; and generally organizing party politics at the neighborhood level.

Huff’s class isn’t just for voters who want to get elected as precinct leaders or delegates to county and higher assemblies — on up to the national conventions in August — but after covering the intricacies of the caucus process, that’s the gist of what she teaches. While there’s no substitute for Huff’s in-person presentation and trove of caucus arcana, here’s some of her advice:

• Print up uncluttered, punchy marketing fliers and leave them on every seat. “When everyone’s sitting there listening to all the rules and speeches, they’ll be getting to know you. And when it comes time to vote, they’ll know who you are,” she says.

• Make sure you’re the first person to jump up, and then introduce yourself briefly, when it’s time for the election. Citing results from numerous precinct and assembly contests, Huff says it’s clear that the first speakers have a solid advantage.

• The key to getting elected, she says, is to appear “attractive, personable, knowledgeable, energetic and helpful.” To accomplish that, she recommends showing up early to lend a hand, and even contacting precinct leaders ahead of time to help drum up attendance and organize the meeting. Dress well, get stained teeth cleaned, and get a fresh haircut. Most of all, don’t appear “disinterested, annoying, sullen or unconfident.”

• Those hoping to be GOP delegates to future assemblies should bring a calendar and a checkbook. It doesn’t do any good to get elected to the county assembly only to discover it’s the same weekend as your cousin’s wedding. And Republicans collect delegate fees — Democrats don’t charge them — on caucus night. This year it’ll cost $60 to be a delegate to the state assembly ($30 for alternates) on April 14 at the University of Denver’s Ritchie Center. The cost for county assemblies — most of them are in March — varies, but is in the neighborhood of $15. Republicans wanting to attend higher assemblies — including state and congressional district assemblies, where presidential delegates are chosen — must indicate which assemblies they’re gunning for at the caucus.

Huff has daily caucus classes scheduled during the week before the Republican caucuses. They’re set at 10-11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 1, through Saturday, Feb. 4, at her Castle Pines home. She notes that all are welcome — Republicans, Democrats, members of other parties, unaffiliated voters, children and those who aren’t registered to vote — and says she’d be glad to arrange classes for groups. There’s a nominal fee for materials, which she’ll waive for students. Contact Huff at research@GoodfellowLLC.com to reserve a spot.

— By Ernest Luning