Colo.’s political parties smell caucus rebellion
Denver, CO Colorado
DENVER – A rebellious mood among Colorado voters had both parties braced for upsets Tuesday as precinct caucuses unfolded to start choosing candidates.
Both Democrats and Republicans planned preference polls for their candidates for a Senate seat and the governor’s office. The caucuses are the first step for party nominations in Colorado; the nominees won’t be picked until Aug. 10 primaries.
For Democrats, party loyalists were watching to see whether their freshman senator, Michael Bennet, could rebuff a challenge from former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff.
Bennet was appointed last year and has the blessing of Democratic bigwigs, including President Barack Obama. Romanoff, though, has been tapping into unrest among Democrats with their national leadership.
“Our victory will send shock waves to a town that needs one,” Romanoff told several dozen cheering supporters at a rally Friday in Aurora.
The incumbent is sounding similar themes. In his first television campaign, which begins Wednesday, Bennet distances himself from Congress – he refers to sitting lawmakers as “them,” not “us.”
“I’ve been in Washington for only a year,” Bennet says, standing in front of snowy Colorado mountains. “But it didn’t take that long to see the whole place is broken. It’s time to give them a wake-up call.”
Democrats have no contest for the governor’s office. Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper appears to have a clear path to the nomination to replace Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter, who is not seeking re-election.
Republicans have hot contests for both statewide offices this fall. In the Senate contest, five Republicans are competing for up to three spots on the party’s primary ballot.
The fundraising front-runner, former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, has had to fend off accusations she’s too centrist. The other four candidates have repeatedly said she’s not conservative enough.
Over the weekend, several tea party-like groups across Colorado backed Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, who made statewide headlines for his efforts to crack down on illegal immigration in his county. Buck campaigns as a rock-ribbed conservative and has the backing of the Texas-based Campaign for Liberty, a conservative group led by Republican Ron Paul.
Challengers criticize Norton because she was lieutenant governor when Coloradans approved a tax hike to pay for schools. Opponents also point out that Norton’s brother-in-law, Charlie Black, is a powerful Washington lobbyist and that she has close ties to the national GOP.
In the governor’s race, former Rep. Scott McInnis had a challenge from businessman Dan Maes.
Even if outsiders win Tuesday, both parties still have county and state gatherings of party activists to determine top billing on primary ballots. Some winners of precinct caucuses have gone on to lose badly in primary elections.
On the Net:
Colorado Democrats, http://www.coloradodems.org
Colorado Republicans, http://www.cologop.org