Precinct caucuses set for today |

Precinct caucuses set for today

“Caucuses are the roots of grassroots politics,” Eagle County Democratic Party Chairperson Debbie Marquez said Monday. “The best thing is to get together with your neighbors and talk politics. You don’t have that many places any longer to sit around and do that.”

The neighborhood aspect is important, not only to the neighborhoods, but to the country as well, said Eagle County Republican Chairperson Henri Stone. “People are becoming more and more closed off. This forces people to come interact with one another at a personal level. Republics are designed for people to come together and come to agreement on issues.”

Stone said caucuses are more work than candidates simply petitioning their way onto the ballot, but they’re worth it.

“It’s a great system. It requires more work, but it’s the only way to make sure candidates meet with the public that will elect them,” Stone said. “I respect both parties, especially Debbie Marquez and all the work they put in for their grassroots effort, as well as our grassroots effort. It’s this level of involvement that keeps this republic strong.”

Precinct caucuses are designed to accomplish three basic pieces of business:

– Select precinct captains, who will serve on the party’s central committee creating the party’s countywide policies.

– Select delegates their party’s respective county assembly, where they in turn select who will attend the state convention on June 1. There, delegates to the parties’ national conventions are selected.

Both Marquez and Stone were delegates to their respective national political conventions last election year because they went to their caucuses and worked their way through the process.

For the Democrats, the delegate formula is based on how precincts performed for Democrat candidates during the 2000 election. Those who turned out the larger numbers of votes for Democratic candidates, Marquez said, get the highest numbers of delegates to the Democratic county assembly on May 3. Bonus delegates are awarded for precincts that went to Democratic county commissioner candidates, she said.

– Introduce resolutions at the grassroots level. If a resolution is introduced and approved at the caucus level, it moves to the next level. It could eventually become part of the party’s state and national party platform.

“For instance, one woman comes to her precinct caucus every year and presents a resolution to eliminate caucuses,” said Marquez. “With Democrats, you can always be assured that we will always have some healthy disagreements about resolutions. That’s the origin of the saying “I’m not a member of any organized political party – I’m a Democrat.'”

Local and regional candidates make the rounds to as many caucuses as they can, recruit others to attend some caucuses in their place.

To attend your precinct caucus, all you have to be is a registered voter with that party.

Precincts could become extinct

If a Denver-based group has its way, today’s precinct caucuses could be the last at which political candidates are selected.

The Bighorn Center for Public Policy will ask Colorado voters this November to remove candidate selection from precinct caucuses and allow candidates to make their way onto ballots by petition. Their plan includes candidates all the way up to the state Legislature.

Bighorn Center spokesman Rutt Bridges says precinct caucuses attract only 1 percent of all political party regulars – mostly those on the fringes of their political parties on the right and the left.

“True believers,” Bridges calls them.

True believers, Bridges says, send only other true believers and fringe candidates before voters for the general election.

“True believers voting for other true believers,” says Bridges.

“In Colorado, it’s not a selection, it’s a coronation,” says Bridges. “I’m not saying they shouldn’t have substantial say, but they shouldn’t have the right to appoint legislators.”

Eagle County Republican Chairwoman Henri Stone disagrees strongly.

“Baloney,” she says.

“The complaint has been that it enables single-issue groups to dominate the process. The fact is they’re just exercising their constitutional rights. The other people shouldn’t be so lazy,” Stone says. “Without the caucus system we’d be living in a vacuum. It would all be money and a signup sheet.”

Stone is in charge of the GOP for the state’s 2nd Congressional District. She says the 400 to 800 delegates to the Colorado’s state Republican convention will all come from caucuses.

Eagle County Democratic Chairperson Debbie Marquez, meanwhile, says the political system needs more opportunities for involvement, not less.

“I’d urge people to remember Florida when it comes to signing on for participating in politics or as election judges,” says Marquez. “During the 2000 presidential election, there were polling places that had no Democratic representation. It’s up to party people to recruit.”

Bridges insists, meanwhile, that caucuses’ time may have passed. In 200 elections in 2000, there could have been 238 primaries for all elected offices being contested. Of those, only 25 saw primaries, and only five of those were incumbents.

“In only 10 percent of those did the people actually have a choice between someone on the right and the far right, or someone on the left and the far left,” says Bridges.

Today’s Democrat Party caucus locations:

– Precinct 1 – Red Cliff Town Hall, 6:30 p.m.

– Precincts 2, 12, 13, 14 – Vail Municipal Building, Executive Council Chambers, 6:30 p.m.

– Precinct 3 – St. Patrick’s Parish Library, 6:30 p.m.

– Precincts 4, 15, 17, 18, 19. 20, 21, 22 – Lakeside Terrace, East Building, Avon, 6:30 p.m.

– Precincts 5, 16, 23 – Eagle Public Library, 6:30 p.m.

– Precincts 6, 9 – First Lutheran Church, Gypsum, 6:30 p.m.

– Precincts 7, 8, 24, 25 – Blue Lake Community Center, El Jebel, 6:30 p.m.

– Precinct 10 – Burns Baptist Church, Burns, 6 p.m.

– Precinct 11 – McCoy Community Center, McCoy, 7 p.m.

The Democratic assembly for Eagle County is 6:30 p.m. Friday, May 3 in the Eagle County Building.

Today’s Republican Party caucus locations:

– Precinct 1 – 177 Water St, Red Cliff, 8 p.m.

– Precincts 2, 12, 13, 14 – Vail Municipal Building, Town Council Chambers, 6:30 p.m.

– Precinct 3 – Turntable Restaurant, Minturn, 5 p.m.

– Precincts 4, 22 – Edwards Elementary School, Edwards, 6 p.m.

– Precincts 5, 16 – Best Western Lodge, Eagle, 7:30 p.m.

– Precincts 6, 9, 23 – Cotton Ranch Club House, Gypsum, 8 p.m.

– Precincts 7, 8, 24, 25 – Eagle County Community Center, El Jebel, 6:30 p.m.

– Precinct 10 – Burns Baptist Church, Burns, 6 p.m.

– Precinct 11 – McCoy Community Center, McCoy, 7 p.m.

– Precinct 15, 19 – Avon Elementary School, 7:30 p.m.

– Precinct 17 – Eagle-Vail Pavilion, 6 p.m.

– Precinct 18 – 202 N. Holden Rd., Beaver Creek, 7 p.m.

The Republican assembly for Eagle County is 2 p.m. Saturday, May 4, in the Eagle County Building.

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