Post-caucus activity revs up in Eagle County
EAGLE COUNTY — The March 1 party caucuses around Colorado were just the start of the state’s election year. There’s a lot more party activity coming in the next several weeks.
Representatives of the local Republican and Democratic parties said the county caucuses were well-attended.
Eagle County Democrats Vice Chair Joy Harrison said attendance at the March 1 caucuses was about double the number posted in 2008. Republicans, on the other hand, had fewer people attend than came out in 2012.
Eagle County Republican Party Chairwoman Kaye Ferry said she believes turnout was down because the state party didn’t include a presidential preference portion in the March 1 events.
“People were fired up to vote and we couldn’t let them,” Ferry said.
But now it’s time for still more work on the parties’ part.
The post-caucus activity revs up again March 19, when both parties hold their county assemblies. The Democrats will gather from 3 to 5 p.m. that day at Battle Mountain High School. Republicans will hold their assembly at noon in the Eagle County Room at the Eagle County Administration at 500 Broadway.
Both of those meetings are open to the public, but only delegates selected at the March 1 caucuses can participate in the business at hand. For both parties, that business includes selecting delegates to the parties’ state conventions in April.
Beyond Big-Picture Items
The state conventions will select delegates for the parties’ national conventions, both held in July this year. Democrats will send delegates supporting either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, the party’s presidential candidates. Republican national delegates can pledge to a candidate, but aren’t required to do that.
Beyond the big-picture items, the county assemblies also provide an opportunity to support candidates for state and local offices.
Harrison said the party is in good shape for those races, mostly because many candidates are incumbents.
Those incumbents start at the county level, with District Attorney Bruce Brown and county commissioners Jill Ryan and Kathy Chandler-Henry. Diane Mitsch Bush of Steamboat Springs is seeking a third term in the Colorado House of Representatives representing Eagle and Routt counties. At the national level, Jared Polis of Boulder represents the part of Eagle County that lies in the Second Congressional District, and Michael Bennet is running for a second term as one of the state’s two U.S. Senators.
Eagle County Clerk and Recorder Teak Simonton is running for the Eagle County Treasurer’s position. If Simonton wins, then she’ll resign her position as clerk and recorder, and the county commissioners will appoint a replacement who will serve until 2018.
Local Republicans have only one incumbent to back, Scott Tipton, of Cortez, who represents the state’s Third Congressional District. That district covers a bit more than half of the county.
“We don’t want anyone to run unchallenged,” Eagle County Republican Party Chairwoman Kaye Ferry said.
Where are the Candidates
While that’s the goal, local Republicans don’t have many announced candidates right now.
Tipton is running for re-election, but is being challenged by Carbondale resident Alex Beinstein. If he earns enough support at the state convention, then Beinstein could force Tipton into a primary election. Mari Renzelman, a longtime deputy in the Eagle County Treasurer’s office, was appointed to fill the county treasurer’s role after the resignation last year of former treasurer Karen Scheaffer, is seeking election to that post. Longtime resident Michael Cacioppo is running against Mitsch Bush, and there are 11 candidates seeking their party’s nomination to face Bennet this fall. That field will be thinned at the state convention, with voters choosing a candidate in the state’s June 28 primary election.
That election will largely set the ballot for the Nov. 8 general election.
Ferry said she’s talked to a few people about running for commissioner or district attorney, but acknowledged that the power of incumbency is strong.
“Most people have a hard time putting themselves out there (to run against an incumbent),” Ferry said. “But we’re working on it.”