After canceling their in-person county assembly, originally scheduled for March 21, the Montezuma County Democrats are now holding a remote assembly by secure email ballot. The participating 58 delegates received their ballots Wednesday morning and are expected to return them by Saturday at noon.
“I’m really proud that we had people in our Statehouse and Senate who recognized that this was going to be a problem early enough to get emergency legislation passed, and worked literally around the clock to get that written and passed by both the House and the Senate and to the governor’s office for him to sign it and do an executive order,” said Mary Dodd, chair of the Montezuma County Democrats. “If they had delayed at all, we would be in a big mess.”
The processThe already-complex election system was further complicated by the coronavirus outbreak this season.
Caucuses were held a few weeks ago in Montezuma County – although in Colorado, presidential candidates are now selected through a statewide primary, caucuses are still held by the two major political parties. At the caucuses, Democrats and Republicans gather and are able to elect delegates to the county assembly, set their party platforms, and determine which candidates are able to appear on the ballot for other contests, like the upcoming U.S. Senate race.
At the March 7 caucus, the Montezuma County Democrats elected delegates to attend the county assembly, wrote resolutions to represent their party platform and conducted a preference poll for U.S. Senate candidates.
This year, several Democratic candidates hope to oust incumbent U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner with five initially opting to go through the caucus and assembly process: John Hickenlooper, Andrew Romanoff, Stephanie Rose Spaulding, Erik Underwood and Trish Zornio.
According to results posted by the state Democratic party, Romanoff came out of the Montezuma County caucus significantly ahead of the other candidates, earning 76 of the total 120 raw votes. Hickenlooper took 35 raw votes; Spaulding, five; and Zornio, three. One delegate was designated “uncommitted.”
The poll translates to 35 delegates for Romanoff, 19 for Hickenlooper, two for Spaulding, one for Zornio, and one for “uncommitted.” Underwood doesn’t receive a delegate because he did not earn a vote.
The next step in the process is the county assembly, where delegates will vote on candidates for three upcoming races: in addition to the U.S. Senate race, candidates are also vying to represent Congressional District 3 and House District 58.
Although Hickenlooper earned the second-highest number of delegates in the caucus, he has petitioned his way onto the ballot – the other way candidates can earn a spot on the June 30 primary ballot – and will no longer be taking part in the assembly process. So at the county assembly, delegates for the Montezuma County Democrats will just be choosing from Romanoff, Spaulding and Zomio in the U.S. Senate race.
For U.S. Congressional District 3, three Democrats are running with hopes of unseating Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez: Diane Mitsch Bush, James Iacino and Root Routledge.
And in Colorado House District 58, Democrat Seth Cagin recently announced he would run against Rep. Marc Catlin, R-Montrose, according to Dodd.
Delegates may choose “uncommitted.” To qualify for the next steps – the Congressional District 3 Assembly or the State Assembly – candidates must receive at least 15% of the delegate vote.
Also at the county assembly, delegates ratify the list of Precinct Committee People elected by precinct caucuses, vote on resolutions sent forward from precinct caucuses, and vote whether they want to be delegates to higher level assemblies and conventions.
A new formatThe assembly was originally set for March 21, but in light of the coronavirus outbreak and social distancing efforts, the group postponed it. And then after Colorado Gov. Jared Polis issued an executive order enabling the assembly to move forward through alternate measures, organizers decided to cancel the in-person assembly and hold it through an email ballot instead.
Montezuma County Republicans opted to stick with their original plan and held their assembly March 20 to select county commissioner candidates for the June ballot.
The next events will be held online. The Congressional District 3 Assembly and Convention is set for April 12, and the State Assembly and Convention will be April 18. Montezuma County Democrats can send 12 delegates to each Denver event – usually the same dozen go to both to be more efficient and cost-effective.
At that point, candidates must receive at least 30% of delegate votes in order to be placed on the June 30 primary ballot.
But since the assemblies will now be travel-less, the two delegations can include different people, Dodd said.