EDWARDS, Colorado - Hundreds of local Republicans gathered Tuesday and almost one-third supported Mitt Romney for president.
"This is the largest caucus we've ever had in Eagle County," said Kaye Ferry, chairman of Eagle County's Republican Party. "All across the country they've been talking about the low turnout and Eagle County came out in droves. We're thrilled that so many of you made it tonight."
A precinct caucus is a lesson in civics class. Like-minded people from their neighborhoods gather around a table and decide their favorites from among the candidates. Precinct caucuses are the smallest political conventions and they're a straw poll.
Local Republicans brought all their precincts to three locations, Battle Mountain High School, Basalt and Burns, and a massive number showed up.
More than 500 registered online before the event even started, and hundreds more registered at the door.
Their opinions may differ, but their goal is the same - "Make Barack Obama a one-term president," Ferry said.
Local Republicans spoke for each of their party's presidential candidates.
Local contractor Clint Jansen spoke on behalf of Ron Paul.
"We're all here today to make sure Obama is a one-term president," Jansen said, as the room broke into applause. "It's a shame how far left we have allowed this country to drift. I don't believe anyone deserves your vote, but I do believe he'll earn it."
Mike Deacon spoke for Mitt Romney, calling him "brilliant, a problem solver and a business creator" and pointed out that Romney helped saved the Utah Olympics and its reputation.
Claudia Alexander, speaking for Newt Gingrich said, "I think we can all agree that it's better to repeat our successes than our failures."
She briefly outlined Gingrich's 21st Century Contract with America.
Mike Beltracchi and Shayne Mitchell are running for District 2, the center of the valley. The winner will face Democrat Jon Stavney in November.
"Two people convinced me I had to run. Those two people are Peter Runyon and Jon Stavney," Beltracchi said.
Both Republicans said they'd put the open space back on the ballot, something Stavney and the other current commissioners, all Democrats, have refused to do.
"If we took 10,000 signatures down there, they still wouldn't put it on the ballot," Beltracchi said.
Open space spending consumes 17 percent of the county budget, behind only road and bridge spending (22 percent) and public safety (18 percent), Beltracchi said.
Eagle County's economy is stagnant, they said, and the county government has a share of the blame.
"It's not for the government to fix. It's for commerce and free enterprise to fix," Beltracchi said.
Minturn business owner Johnie Rosenfeld and former Eagle County undersheriff Jeff Layman are running for the District 1 seat, being vacated by Democrat Peter Runyon.
"This is my home and I'm running for county commissioner because I'm very concerned about the direction we've been going," Layman said.
He was the undersheriff and was laid off when budget cuts hit, so he understands what that's like, he said
"I will emphasize job creation and preservation," Layman said. "It's time to bring a new chapter of county government to the people of Eagle County. I can guarantee you I won't spend $4.5 million on anything resembling Stratton Flats," Layman said.
He also vowed not to spend general fund money for open space.
"I know what it takes to get business going in this area," said Rosenfeld, who owns Johnie's Garden in Minturn and serves on the Minturn Town Council.
"The government's role is limited. Besides police and fire protection and basic services, government's role is to help create opportunities to help private enterprise to be successful," Rosenfeld said.
Over-regulation has reached all the way to the county level, Rosenfeld said.
"The county just floated an idea saying we need a countywide business license. No we don't. The government needs to stay out of the way so private business can get us going again," Rosenfeld said.
Minnesota held a caucus and Missouri held its primary Tuesday.
Romney opened Colorado Caucus Day at a rally in RV America in Loveland.
Gingrich breezed through Colorado before jetting off to campaign in Ohio Tuesday.
Romney won Colorado easily in 2008. He has the support of top Colorado Republicans such as former Gov. Bill Owens, former Sen. Hank Brown and Attorney General John Suthers, who say Romney has the best chance against Obama in November.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.