State election season starts with caucuses | VailDaily.com

State election season starts with caucuses

EAGLE COUNTY — While the political season seems like it never stops these days, Colorado's election year kicks off in earnest Tuesday when members of the state's two main political parties meet around the county to talk politics. But Republicans won't be doing much about presidential politics.

Kaye Ferry, chairwoman of the Eagle County Republican Party, said she's been getting a lot of calls from party members who want to come out Tuesday to voice their preference for president. But those decisions won't be made, if at all, until the party's state convention in April.

Here's how it works: Party members will split off into groups representing precincts — which the county has about 30. Those small groups will select representatives to the county assembly in March. At that gathering, representatives will choose representatives to the state convention in April. There, representatives will be chosen to the party's national convention, set for July 18-21 in Cleveland.

As those representatives are selected, they can either choose to support a presidential candidate or remain uncommitted.

“We’ve been told (a primary election) would cost between $2 million and $5 million. It would work better in a lot of ways, but how do we pay for it?”Kyle KohliCommunications directorColorado Republican Party

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Colorado Republican Party Communications Director Kyle Kohli said those delegates could be important in the process if primaries and other events around the country in March fail to produce a clear front-runner in the party's presidential candidate selection process.

No Presidential Politicking

While there won't be any presidential politicking at the Republican caucus, Ferry said there will be a lot of other party business to do, including electing delegates and approving resolutions that could become part of the county, state or national party platform.

Democrats will do largely the same kind of business, but they'll also participate in a presidential preference poll.

Eagle County Democrats Vice Chair Joy Harrison said delegates to that party's county assembly — also to be held in March — can prefer a presidential candidate, but won't be tied to that candidate, at least early on in the process.

The other big difference is that the Democrats have eight caucus sites around the county.

Engaging More People

While Ferry said the Republicans have had good caucus-night turnout since moving to a site in the middle of the Vail Valley, Harrison said local Democrats believe multiple sites will spur the turnout of their party faithful.

Both Ferry and Harrison said the idea is to engage more people in the process. But both said perhaps more party members would participate in a primary election.

According to the Colorado Republicans' Facebook page, Colorado hasn't had a presidential primary since 2000, with the Colorado Legislature voting in 2002 to go back to the county caucus system.

Harrison said there's a certain charm to the caucuses, since neighbors get together to talk about politics. On the other hand, the system is "kind of an unfunded mandate put on us by the (Colorado) Secretary of State," Harrison said. "We need to train people, reserve space — it's a tremendous amount of work… I know I'd rather be skiing than urging people to turn out or training volunteers."

Ferry agreed, saying, "If we have enough interest in a primary, that's a better way to do it in my mind — you get a bigger pool (of voters)."

And, in the case of the party members who have been calling Ferry, many people are angry they won't be able to express a presidential preference.

Kohli said a presidential primary is probably a better idea than the caucus system. But, he said, that comes with a cost.

"We've been told (a primary election) would cost between $2 million and $5 million," Kohli said. "It would work better in a lot of ways, but how do we pay for it?"

Where do I go?

• The county’s Republican Party has a main caucus site — Battle Mountain High School — but will also hold caucus meetings in the northern part of county and in El Jebel. To learn more, go to http://www.cologop.org.

Bring a photo ID to confirm your residence.

• The county’s Democrats will hold meetings at several locations around the county. To learn more, go to http://wordpress.eagledems.org/.