Colorado Democrats elected former Senate President Morgan Carroll as state party chair Saturday at a central committee meeting in Denver.
“I believe what we need right now is a movement, not just a club, and I believe the Democratic Party should be on the front lines of the resistance — we must adapt or face extinction,” Carroll told Democrats gathered at the Marriott Denver City Center for the party’s biennial reorganization.
Carroll, an Aurora Democrat, won election to a two-year term by a wide margin, receiving 401 votes to 38 votes for Clear Creek County Commissioner Tim Mauck, who stressed the importance of reaching out to rural and suburban Democrats.
Incumbent chair Rick Palacio said in November he wouldn’t be seeking a fourth term. He made an unsuccessful bid for a vice chair position on the Democratic National Committee earlier this year.
“This is no ordinary time,” Carroll said in her speech accepting the nomination. Recalling election night last fall, when she came up 8 points short in a bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, Carroll said she was alarmed by the election of Republican Donald Trump to the presidency.
“I realized we are truly at risk of losing everything we have all fought for for the last 100 years,” she said. “I love the people in our state and our country and our planet too much to sit on the sidelines. These threats are not hypothetical. You and I are watching every day, every moment you turn on the news, every time these people have their fingers at the levers of power, they are attacking everything we hold sacred in this country.”
Flanked on stage by dozens of supporters, including state and federal lawmakers, Carroll gestured to the hundreds of Democrats packed into the ballroom.
“The Republicans will not fix this mess. The unaffiliateds have no infrastructure. Third parties do not have the numbers. So, therefore, in my view, the future of the free world and our constitutional democracy, our civil rights and liberties and our planet are depending on us and the Democratic Party,” she said, and the crowd went wild.
Carroll said it was crucial to make sure everyone felt welcome in the party and vowed to institute what she called a 64-county strategy.
“My hope,” she said, “is to make us the state party that becomes the model for the whole country.” Describing her vision for the party, Carroll added, “What I would like to do to see the state party at the forefront of the resistance, offer one-stop shop place to go where people can find out when, where and how to be engaged every day, not just on elections.”
“Today we are here to pick a leader to move us forward at a changing time in our state and for our party,” said state Rep. Jovan Melton, D-Aurora, nominating Carroll. He lauded her record fighting for working families and criminal justice reform, adding, “and as a Dog House Dem, I have to say I was impressed by the courage she had when she stood up for Black Lives Matter.”
After the results were announced, Carroll thanked Mauck for running a spirited race for state chair. (A third state chair candidate, incumbent state 2nd Vice Chair Barbara Jones, withdrew from the race earlier this week and threw her support to Mauck.)
In his remarks before the state chair candidates took to the stage, Palacio thanked a long list of Democrats, including staffers, volunteers and party officials across the state. Among those he recognized were the state party’s three executive directors during the six years he headed the party: the current executive director, Anne Wilseck; her predecessor Jennifer Koch; and Palacio’s first executive director, now-state Rep. Alec Garnett, D-Denver.
Then, adopting a more valedictory tone, Palacio told the Democrats that there’s a lot of work state party officers do behind the scenes, including fundraising and resolving problems with diplomacy.
“Some of it is not always flowers — some of it is politics,” he said. “And I would ask that this body in the future provide to our next chair and our next leadership team a tremendous amount of patience and understanding that we are all on the same team, as Democrats. That we are all here trying to move our state and our nation forward and make this a better place for all of us — not just the people who live in the Denver metro area, but the people that live in Archuletta County, and Clear Creek County, and Routt County, and every county in between.”
Carroll took over as chair just moments after the vote was announced.
“Hold on to your phones, because we are going to be asking for a lot of help with the work we have ahead,” she said, and then moved on to the election of additional state party officers. (Those election results weren’t yet announced at press time.)
The Democrats hold the party’s Annual Dinner — renamed last year from the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner — later Saturday in the same ballroom, featuring keynoter former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, who lost a close race challenging the state’s incumbent Republican U.S. senator, Roy Blunt, is the dinner’s keynote speaker.
The party also will hand out awards to notable Democrats, including state Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, winner of the party’s Rising Star Award; U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, the Democrat of the Year; Ted Fritschel of Arapahoe County, Volunteer of the Year; and Euell Santistevan, Jr., of Jefferson County and Taryn Sebba of Larimer County, winners of a new award, the Murphy Roberts Young Volunteers of the Year. Palacio is also expected to name the winner of the Chair’s Award for Service.