Election 2018News

Republicans, Democrats launch Colorado’s 2018 election at precinct caucuses

Author: Colorado Politics - March 6, 2018 - Updated: March 8, 2018

Denver Democratic caucus attendees listen to Colorado Democratic State Representative Leslie Herod as she introduces herself at Denver’s Smiley Middle School Tuesday night. (Photo by Andy Colwell/Colorado Politics)

Thousands of Republicans and Democrats are gathering at precinct caucuses across Colorado in schools, churches and community centers Tuesday night to conduct nuts-and-bolts politics as the election season officially kicks off.

For months, candidates have been urging supporters to turn out at the neighborhood meetings, where voters will begin the process of placing names on the June primary ballot, consider resolutions that might become part of party platforms and take care of party business at the grassroots level.

There will only be one official statewide vote at the meetings — a preference poll between Democratic gubernatorial candidates — but in every precinct, party members will select delegates bound for assemblies, where they’ll nominate candidates at all levels, from county commissioners to Congress, along with statewide offices.

The Democrats don’t expect to announce the results of their statewide poll for governor until the wee hours Tuesday night, or possibly Wednesday morning, but it could prove decisive for some of the candidates hoping to take over for term-limited Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat.

Five Democrats running for governor are seeking delegates to the state assembly — U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy, former state Sen. Mike Johnston, businessman and civic leader Noel Ginsburg and entrepreneur, and activist Erik Underwood. In order to make the primary ballot, it’ll take the support of 30 percent of delegates, and the poll results Tuesday night will be an early indication, although it won’t be until April 14 when delegates convene in Broomfield to cast their votes.

But the route to the primary ballot is more complicated than that, since Colorado candidates can also gain access by petitioning, and all of the major candidates except Kennedy are also using that method, as is Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, who is skipping the caucus and assembly process.

Republicans won’t be recording official votes for candidates at caucuses, although some counties — and even individual precincts — will hold straw polls to gauge support for candidates at various levels. Instead, they’ll be selecting delegates to go on to county assemblies held throughout the rest of March and the state confab on April 14 in Boulder, as well as various district assemblies along the way.

10:52 p.m.

Kennedy was the gubernatorial candidate whom Democratic caucus-goers in El Paso County favored most, according to preliminary results from preferential polls taken at the gatherings.

Kennedy earned 661 votes from caucus participants, Polis earned 488, Mike Johnston earned 132, Noel Ginsburg earned 12, Erik Underwood earned 17, and 39 people said they were uncommitted, county Democratic Party Chairwoman Electra Johnson told The Gazette late Tuesday. All precinct results were reported by about 10:30 p.m.


9:09 p.m.
“Putting on the caucus is a huge amount of work, and county party officers and volunteers have been absorbed in preparations for months,” Colorado Republican Chairman Jeff Hays told Colorado Politics. “This has been an opportunity for them to test their capabilities, and they performed superbly.”
8:52 p.m.
Before preferential polls were taken, conversations in the precinct caucuses at Cheyenne Mountain Middle School in Colorado Springs were largely cordial.
“It’s just really important to all of us that we get a Democratic governor,” one woman, a Polis supporter, told precinct supporters standing in different areas of a classroom to signify their support for certain gubernatorial candidates.
In another classroom, a member of another precinct spoke in support of Johnston.
“Mike Johnston is the type of candidate who’s going to keep me in Colorado,” said the man, who introduced himself as Jake, 27. “He’s the type of candidate that’s going to keep me in Colorado.”
Occasionally, the sound of clapping echoed through the middle school’s halls, lined with signs blazoning the names of Polis, Kennedy and other candidates.
 8:42 p.m.
At Cheyenne Mountain Middle School in Colorado Springs, precinct caucuses just wrapped up.
Sarah Hartzinger, 54, just attended the #722 precinct caucus. She arrived — and left — a Cary Kennedy supporter, she said.
“The conversation actually just affirmed my support for her,” Hartzinger said, adding that she also liked Johnston and Polis but found Kennedy more electable.
The precinct also passed several platform resolutions — including ones related to protecting public lands, addressing climate change and combating racial discrimination, said Hartzinger, a Colorado College professor of El Paso County.
“The blue wave can rise,” she said, “even in El Paso County.”
8:21 p.m.
At Cheyenne Mountain Middle School, where 11 democrat caucuses are being held, in Colorado Springs, Jared Polis and Cary Kennedy appear to be the prime contenders.
A straw poll in Precinct 721 showed that nine people supported Cary Kennedy, one supported Mike Johnston, 10 people supported Jared Polis, and 2 people were uncommitted.
In the official preferential poll in Precinct 724, there were eight people for Kennedy, four for Ginsberg, and four for Polis.
And in Precinct #726, all 19 participants opted for Kennedy in the preferential poll.
“I think we were pleasantly surprised that we got 100 percent for her,” said Deborah Adams, 65, a member of the precinct who recently registered as a volunteer for Kennedy’s campaign.
She added that she was pleased to see there weren’t any negative comments about other candidates.
“It was all very positive about her and her accomplishments,” said Adams.
 8:18 p.m.

Votes were counted on one hand for many candidates in precinct caucuses at Smiley Middle School in Denver, not by counties or demographics, as they will be courted and counted in the campaign season ahead.

“I’ve known Cary all my life,” said one supporter in his precinct of about 50 people.

An older woman butted in, “It’s about time we had a woman in this office.”

Somebody else said it was Jared Polis who had the campaign money and name recognition to best presumed Republican frontrunner Walker Stapleton in November.

“Just something to think about,” the Polis supporter said in the dimly lit school auditorium.

And so it went in classrooms throughout the school.

This was retail politics where every single vote for a delegate moved candidates for a variety of offices closer to the ballot and closer to Election Day.

“If you don’t like the system, pick a better one,” said Ann Johnson as she wandered out into the evening cold after her precinct turned in its votes.

“This year I think it’s going to favor Democrats.”

 7:56 p.m.

There are about 100 people gathered in the gym of the Central Christian Church in Denver’s Cherry Creek neighborhood. Most are older and retired, although there are a few people in their 30s and 40s.

At one table, with about a dozen people, they’re debating a resolution on Senate Bill 97, which would allow concealed carry of weapons without a permit. However the group votes, they’ll send the resolution forward to the county assembly and perhaps on to the state. Some favor the legislation, which is scheduled for a final vote in the Senate later this week. Others don’t. But all acknowledge the bill is unlikely to get through the Democratic House. In the end, the group voted 7-4 to support a resolution that would oppose the bill, with three not voting.
A resolution opposing concealed carry without a permit. (Photo by Marianne Goodland/Colorado Politics)
Talk of Walker Stapleton for governor dominates much of the conversation, although this particular caucus is not doing a straw poll. One woman said they just don’t know enough about the candidates yet to make a decision. The one person they did not favor, however, was Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.
At another precinct, they passed a resolution that opposes Colorado hosting the Olympics anytime in the future.
Judy Krall has been a conservative since reading “Conscience of a Conservative” by Barry Goldwater in 1964. She’s helping with volunteers tonight, but also has strong feelings about who she thinks will be the best candidate for governor. Walker Stapleton is her guy.
Susie Johnson has no particular favorite. “Just anyone who can beat Jared Polis,” she said.
One resolution that got unanimous support: requiring a state-issued photo ID in order to vote. “One of the things about voting, if there’s voter fraud, it disenfranchises those who are legally registered to vote,” according to Mike Schneider. Some people say voter fraud isn’t widespread, “but just widespread does it have to be?”
This same table didn’t take a straw poll either, but Walker Stapleton was definitely on people’s minds. “He’s got name recognition. He’s got a chance,” said one man.
This caucus was held in House District 6, which delivers the most Republican votes in Denver County, according to Wendy Warner, who lives in the district and is a former Denver GOP county chair.  The caucus at the Central Christian Church was one of three in the district, one of the largest for the GOP in Denver.
At another table, George Klippenstein and his neighbors talked about the governor’s race. He’s heard Stapleton, Coffman, Lopez and Robinson, and for now favors Stapleton first and Robinson second. But there’s still a lot that people don’t know about the candidates, he added.
Jeff Eggemeyer was alone in his precinct. It’s his second time caucusing — the first was two years ago, and he went from the caucus precinct to working on the Trump campaign in Denver, co-chair with Steve Barlock, who is also running for governor. The issues that motivated him two years ago are still carrying him today: immigration, energy and economics. He’s encouraged about what he sees coming out of the Trump White House, especially on energy.
“The opposition is focused on eliminating the oil and gas business,” Eggemeyer said. “Republicans had better not take this election lightly. It’s critical for the state.”
Casper Stockham, a candidate for the U.S. Congressional District 1 in Denver, stopped by but came just after the caucus wrapped up. He’s been to four caucuses tonight.
The reception has been incredible and people are excited, he said, addint that most candidates in Congressional District 1 run only once.
“You have to keep at it,” he said. “I’m in the community every day, working with Project Purpose, which helps inner-city youth find their purpose in life. Once they find that, everything opens up to them.”
He’ll be speaking at the Times Up! event at the Denver City County building tomorrow, he said. The event will call on Denver Mayor Michael Hancock to step down in the wake of a sexual misconduct allegation made by a former member of his security team.
Caucus night at Central Christian Church in Denver’s Cherry Creek neighborhood. (Photo by Marianne Goodland/Colorado Politics)


7:51 p.m.


7:44 p.m.

The Belzley children are old hands at the Democratic caucus.

Two years ago, now-8-year-old Liza and 6- year-old Cooper went up on stage when their dad was a surrogate for a University of Colorado regent’s candidate Lucky Vidmar.

“We got a few cheers and laughs,” father Seth Belzley said.

Liza said of the caucus, “It’s a little …. grown-up.”

Why did the Belzleys bring the kids again?

“They couldn’t get a babysitter,” Liza chimed in.

That and more, said her mom, Cody.

“We’re both big believers in democracy,” she said. “For better or worse, as dysfunctional as it is, it’s our system, and we’ve got to show up and be part of it.”


7:30 p.m.


7:24 p.m.

State Rep. Leslie Herod said Democrats can’t lose in this year’s race for governor.

She spoke for Jared Polis as she shared the stage with candidate Cary Kennedy and Mike Johnston. She has known them all for years, she said.

“No matter what happens in the primary we’re going to have a great candidate,” she told the full auditorium at Smiley Middle School.


7:16 p.m.

At Cheyenne Mountain Middle School in Colorado Springs, Republicans were outnumbered Tuesday night. The school hosted 11 Democratic caucuses and 3 Republican ones.
Democrat Pat Lehouillier, 70, said he was attending the caucus for his precinct — 729 — in support of gubernatorial candidate Cary Kennedy.
“I think it comes down to a choice between Cary Kennedy and Jared Polis.  I believe Cary is more electable. We’re not a solid blue state. We’re a purple state and she’s more appealing to the middle of the state.”
Chris Caunt, 68, also a Democrat, said he wasn’t there in heavy favor of any specific candidates, but instead to contribute to the party’s platform — specifically regarding gun control and healthcare.
“This is where you can initially voice your real opinion of what you think your party should be. This is where it starts,” he said while sitting at a student desk. “I’m aghast at what’s going on at the federal level right now, and I want to do everything I can to turn the House and Senate.”
 6:43 p.m.

Cary Kennedy arrived early as Smiley Middle School in Denver was filling up with Democrats.

She was a bit of a rockstar, one of the few candidates going through the caucuses to get on the June ballot.

“It’s an opportunity for people to get together to learn about the candidates and to talk to their neighbors and learn about the issues,” said Kennedy amid the din of laughs, political chatter and greetings.

“They can make an informed decision about who they’re going to support in the governor’s race.”

Cary Kennedy, a Democratic hopeful for Colorado governor, chats at Smiley Middle School in Denver. (Photo by Joey Bunch/Colorado Politics)


7:07 p.m.

Mike Johnston was working the crowd at Smiley Middle School Tuesday night.

“We’re delighted to be here,” he said. “Anytime Democrats are gathering and want to talk about the future of the state, we want to be there,” he said.

As election season gets going, the questions from voters get sharper, he said.

“It’s starting to come into focus,” he said. “People are more engaged.”

Johnston said Democrats want to talk about roads, guns, schools and keeping the state green.


6:40 p.m.


Editor’s note: This story was updated to reflect the fact that Johnston is going through caucus, to add the Casper Stockham’s congressional distrct and to correct the bill number on legislation to allow concealed-carry guns without a permit.

Colorado Politics

Colorado Politics

Colorado Politics, formerly The Colorado Statesman, is the state's premier political news publication, renowned for its award-winning journalism. The publication is also the oldest political news outlet in the state, in continuous publication since 1898. Colorado Politics covers the stories behind the stories in Colorado's state Capitol and across the Centennial State, focusing on politics, public policy and elections with in-depth reporting on the people behind the campaigns — from grassroots supporters to campaign managers and the candidates and issues themselves.