Election 2018GovernorNews

Democrat Cary Kennedy wins gubernatorial preference poll at Colorado caucuses

Author: Ernest Luning - March 7, 2018 - Updated: March 9, 2018

Cary KennedyColorado Democratic gubernatorial candidate Cary Kennedy, a former state treasurer, introduces herself to a caucus precinct at Denver’s McAuliffe International School during Colorado’s 2018 caucuses on Tuesday, March 6, 2018. (Photo by Andy Colwell for the Gazette)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Cary Kennedy scored a win at Colorado’s precinct caucuses Tuesday night, receiving exactly 50 percent of the vote in a preference poll conducted to kick off a multi-step process to qualify for the June primary ballot.

The former state treasurer prevailed over U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, who scored 32.5 percent of the vote, with 96.3 percent of precincts reporting, the Colorado Democratic Party said. The other candidates for governor trailed: state Sen. Mike Johnston wound up with 8.8 percent, businessman Noel Ginsburg got 1.7 percent, and entrepreneur Erik Underwood, who ran for the U.S. Senate two years ago as a Republican, got 0.4 percent. Just 6.5 percent of Democrats opted for “uncommitted” in the voting, which took place at more than 3,000 caucus locations across the state.

Kennedy is the only major Democrat running for governor who is going through the caucus and assembly process without petitioning. Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne wasn’t included in the preference poll because she didn’t participate in caucuses but is circulating petitions.

“I am so grateful for the incredible showing of support. I could feel the momentum building as I traveled the state.” Kennedy said in a statement Wednesday.

She won nine of the state’s 11 largest counties and received more votes than all of the other caucusing candidates combined, her campaign pointed out.

“The caucus is an important step in this election,” her campaign manager, Aaron Bly, said in a statement. “This momentum will only continue as we are gaining endorsements, building our grassroots team and talking to voters across Colorado. We are confident this momentum takes us to a victory in June and in November.”

The state party reported that 23,168 Democrats showed up for caucuses — a much lower turnout than two years ago when interest in the presidential race swamped many locations but about on par with other recent mid-term elections that featured contested primary races at the top of the ticket.

Republicans also caucused but didn’t hold an official poll in any of their primary races. The state GOP doesn’t report attendance figures for its caucuses.

The caucus is the first step for candidates seeking the nomination. In Colorado, Democrats elect delegates to county, congressional district and state assemblies based on candidates’ share of support. It’ll take at least 30 percent at the April 14 state assembly in Broomfield for statewide candidates to get on the ballot — or they can turn in 10,500 valid petition signatures.

Johnston is so far the only Democratic gubernatorial candidate to turn in his petitions — he delivered them to the secretary of state last month —  and they’re in the process of being verified. The deadline is March 20.

Polis said in a Facebook post late Tuesday that he was confident he’ll make the ballot “with over 27,000 signatures already collected coupled with a strong showing across the state tonight.” A campaign spokeswoman said Polis plans to turn in his petitions before long but couldn’t say when.

A Johnston spokeswoman on Wednesday emphasized that that campaign collected signatures from almost as many Democrats as caucused.

“Our path to the ballot has always been through the petition process, and in fact, we turned in nearly as many signatures as there were people at caucus last night,” Elissa Kim said in a statement. “With less than two weeks of effort, we rallied over 2,000 supporters who showed up for us across the state, evidence of our impressive grassroots organization. I am proud of the 22,000 signatures we gathered to get on the ballot, and I am equally proud of the hearts and minds we moved at caucus last night.”

Ginsburg told Colorado Politics he was disappointed in Tuesday’s results but felt good about participating in caucuses.

“Since day one, my campaign has been about ensuring that all voices count,” Ginsburg said. “I’ve traveled across the state to learn from Coloradans and developed policy solutions that meet the needs of residents from the Western Slope, Eastern Plains and everywhere in between. Last night, we had an opportunity to get our message out to thousands of voters. As we finish collecting petition signatures, we will continue to work hard and push our platform forward.”

Candidates who petition and go through assembly have to get at least 10 percent support among delegates, or their petitions won’t count, even if they have sufficient signatures.

A spokesman for Ginsburg on Wednesday said the candidate was evaluating how to proceed.

Colorado Democratic Party Chair Morgan Carroll had high praise for the volunteers and party officials who helped run the biennial neighborhood meetings.

“Tuesday’s turnout — which was stronger than turnout in both 2014 and 2010 — shows that Democrats are fired up and motivated to elect Democrats up and down the ballot in 2018,” she said in a statement.

Her GOP counterpart, state Republican chair Jeff Hays, likewise expressed his appreciation for those who helped make it happen.

“Putting on the caucus is a huge amount of work, and county party officers and volunteers have been absorbed in preparations for months,” he told Colorado Politics in a statement. “This has been an opportunity for them to test their capabilities, and they performed superbly.”

UPDATE: Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Erik Underwood, originally described as an activist, is a tech entrepreneur and ran as a Republican for Colorado’s U.S. Senate seat two years ago. He also ran for Congress as a Republican in a 2007 special election in Georgia and got 0.7 percent of the vote.

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. For nearly a decade, he was a senior political reporter and occasional editor at The Colorado Statesman before the 119-year-old publication merged with Colorado Politics in 2017.

One comment

  • Philip Perington

    March 8, 2018 at 6:17 am

    Very encouraging to see the Caucus process is alive and well. Perhaps Colorado will one day become the 1st State to have a Caucus for Unaffiliated voters. According to the most recent Gallup Poll, Independant voters are the leading catagory of registered voters nationwide. The two party system has brought the U.S. to its knees. Time to let everyone in the “Big Tent” Dems and Repubs so arrogantly allude to.

    Philip Perington
    Born Again Unaffiliated Legal Citizen

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