How the political party process works in Colo. |

How the political party process works in Colo.

Rohn Robbins

The Democratic State Convention was held in Pueblo the weekend of May 22. I was fortunate enough to be among the delegates to the State Convention representing Eagle County. While the State convention is a colorful and boisterous affair (much like the national conventions you have surely at least caught glimpses of on television over the years – replete with bizarre costumes and all manner of attention-getting devices), the process of nominating candidates and adopting party platforms is a vital and interesting one, whether Republican or Democrat, and a hallmark of our democratic form of government.The process begins with the party caucuses which, this year, were held on Tuesday, April 13th. Both the Democratic and Republican caucuses are held on the same date (in lieu of a state primary), though, obviously, not together. The caucuses are grass roots affairs where speeches are made, candidates for local office introduced, and partisan fervor runs amok among the like-minded partisans. On the Democratic side at least, and, presumably, similarly on the Republican, at some point in the evening, the caucus breaks into precincts or voting districts. The precincts elect precinct captains for the coming general election, consider party administrative matters, and formulate and adopt party “planks” (or policies vital to the local party constituency which will be submitted to the party at the state level for consideration as part of the state party platform). The caucuses also elect delegates to the county assemblies.Both the Republican and Democratic County Assemblies were held the weekend of April 23rd. There, various local party positions are filled, administrative matters handled and formally endorsed, the Platform Committee reports the resolutions adopted for presentation, state and local candidates are introduced, speeches are presented and candidates for local office are officially nominated and adopted as the party candidates.Generally, the County Assemblies are energetic affairs where debate, spirted discussion, refinement, and, ultimately, votes are taken as to the platform planks adopted by the Assembly. Delegates are chosen for the State Assembly.The Republican State Convention will be held in Denver the weekend of June 5 and, in format, if not policy, will likely share striking similarities to the Democratic State Convention. Essentially, the party business of the respective state organizations is conducted including: election of delegates to the respective national conventions (this year, in Boston for the Democrats, New York for the Republicans), election of “electors” to the Electoral College (yes, there are actual electors), and official nomination of candidates for national office representing Colorado (that is, candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate). Additionally, votes for delegates for the Presidential election, are taken.This year, the only official Democratic candidates to survive the presidential primaries and remain on the State Convention ballot were the front-runner, John Kerry and Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich. When the ballots were counted, Kerry was, predicably, the consensus nominee with Kucinich garnering a respectable second and various write-in votes for others who had fallen during the primaries, among them Howard Dean, John Edwards and Rev. Al Sharpton. Presumably, with an incumbent in the White House, the Republican Convention will be more of a pro forma matter this year, with President George W. Bush’s likely unanimous endorsement as the Republican candidate for re-election.The Democratic contest for Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell’s soon-to-be-vacated Senate seat was a more fractious and less predictable affair with newcomer Mike Miles emerging slightly ahead of the more well-known Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar who captured a close second. The vote split was 51% for Miles and 49% for Salazar. Salazar and Miles will go head-to-head in a state primary in August with Miles, as the victor at the State Convention, appearing first on the primary ballot.Similarly, the Republicans are courting two Candidates for Senator Campbell’s senate seat: businessman and political ingenue Peter Coors and former Congressman Bob Schaffer. Presumably, the mostly friendly internecine battle between these two at the Republican State Convention will bear many of the hallmarks of the Miles-Salazar tussle.In addition to the official nomination of candidates, the State Party platforms are presented, debated, amended and ultimately put to a vote of the convention delegates. The process is, to say the least, colorful and lively. I am pleased to say, that, as Chair of the Vail Valley Charitable Fund (“VVCF”), some of my thoughts were entertained and, in large part adopted, by the Convention as part of the party platform concerning health care/health insurance reform. The VVCF, in the spirit of bipartisanship, has also presented its thoughts, through Republican members of the Board, to the Republican party for its consideration as a platform plank, the issue of health care reform (if not the precise form of it), being of largely equal interest and concern on both sides of the political fence.Of course, the State Conventions would not be the State Conventions absent the hoopla, outrageous costumes, shameless boosterism, and rallying the faithful which seems at least as much a part of the process as the more weighty issues with which the delegates must contend. The atmosphere is festive, upbeat and flush with the enthusiasm of the possible. The keynote speaker at the Democratic Convention was former Texas Governor Ann Richards who, agree with her or not, is a dynamo behind a speaker’s lecturn.The political process leading, ultimately, to candidates and election is a genuine grass roots affair and vital to out institutions and our political way of life. And involvement in the process, whatever your political persuasion, is essential to democracy. Be a part of it; Republican, Democrat, or Independent, get out and vote!Rohn K. Robbins is an attorney licensed before the Bars of Colorado and California who practices in the Vail Valley. He is a member of the Colorado State Bar Association Legal Ethics Committee and is a former adjunct professor of law. Mr. Robbins lectures for Continuing Legal Education for attorneys in the areas of real estate, business law and legal ethics. He may be reached at 970-926-4461 or at his e-mail address:

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