A tale of two caucuses in Jeffco

Politics got local at Jefferson County party events

Paul Albani-Burgio
palbaniburgio@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 3/9/20

Like many people, Ghada Wahan says she has always paid more attention to national politics than local ones. But that's begun to change recently for Wahan, who said she decided to participate in the …

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A tale of two caucuses in Jeffco

Politics got local at Jefferson County party events

Posted

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story misspelled the name of House District 27 representative Brianna Titone and the location of the House District 27 Republican caucus, which was Ralston Valley High School.

Like many people, Ghada Wahdan says she has always paid more attention to national politics than local ones.

But that's begun to change recently for Wahdan, who said she decided to participate in the Republican Party precinct caucus on March 7, the first step in Colorado's process for selecting candidates for county and state races, because she is becoming more invested in community issues and wanting to have a voice on subjects ranging from roads to education.

However, the Arvada resident says she also has another reason for wanting to participate in the caucus, which will bring together a handful of neighbors to discuss issues and learn about candidates.

“I come from the Middle East and women being involved in politics is not very popular there,” Wahdan said. “I think a lot of people take this for granted but there are a lot of people who live somewhere else who would give anything to be able to participate in a process like this.”

Here is a closer look at two Jeffco caucuses and the experiences of Wahan and others who attended them.

Republican Caucus

A little after 9 a.m. Wahdan arrived at her caucus location, northwest Arvada's Ralston Valley High School. She was one of many attendees who experienced difficulties with pulling up her voter registration online and finding her caucus room, but she made it, along with three other caucus participants, as they got started 45 minutes after its 10 a.m. start time.

At the start of the caucus, Wahdan was elected to be one of the precinct's two delegates to the county assembly later in March. Wahdan's caucus room also received several visits from Republican candidates over the course of the morning, including Vicki Pyne, the only Republican candidate for state House District 27.

“My (Democratic) opponent Brianna Titone does not have anything to say about what we are concerned about for roads, schools and sex education for our kids,” Pyne said. “Parental rights are not a value for her, she wants religion out of everything, so I really would love to have your support.”

During Wahdan's caucus, attendees also got the chance to submit ideas for additions to the state Republican party platform. Wahdan's two submissions focused on the need for more mental health funding in Colorado and her desire to see sanctuary cities eliminated.

Near the end of the meeting, the caucus goers also engaged in a discussion about how the state party could better encourage participation and reach new voters. Wahdan cited the need for better organization, starting with the caucuses.

“It was a circus this morning,” she said.

After the caucus, Jonah Hearne, an officer with the Jeffco GOP, explained that those issues were largely the result of the school changing around room assignments at the last minute as well as the county's decision to require that many precincts be split up into smaller precincts.

Despite the initial issues, Wahdan said she was glad she had attended and looking forward to the county assembly.

“I gained some information of how things work and it was really great to be part of this process and you see it from grassroots of how resolutions come and how it impacts the state,” she said.

Democratic Caucus

The Democratic caucus for House District 29, covering portions of northeastern Arvada and Westminster, began in the auditorium at Standley Lake High School in Westminster with candidates and their surrogates for several state and county offices making short pitches.

The all-woman slate of Democratic candidates for the House District 29 seat each made pitches themselves. Lindsey Doughtery, an attorney, said her legal background gives her an understanding of where the legal system is falling short and how to change it. Amber Hott argued her personal experience with homelessness and domestic violence would allow those to fight for struggling members of the community. Victoria Lopez touted her history of contributing to successful Democratic campaigns in the district. Karen Kalavity said she would prioritize protecting communities from developers.

The caucus then broke into individual precincts, which held a poll to vote on preferred candidates for U.S. Senate. Arvada resident David Hill said he supported candidate Andrew Romanoff during his precinct poll.

“I think the two main guys are Hickenlooper and Romanoff and I would've liked Hickenlooper more if he had not run for president and started running for Senate from the start instrad of getting in when there was already a strong field,” he said. “That led me more toward Romanoff although I like them both.”

Scott Merrifield, the First Vice Chair of the Jeffco Dems, lobbied during the caucus for candidate Trish Zornio, a scientist who he said is strongly focused on education and environmental issues.

“I want to get her on the ballot because why has it always got to be the guy's club?” Merrifield said. “Let's be honest, it's probably going to be Hickenlooper, Romanoff and maybe one other on the primary ballot and I think that one other should be Trish and then in the primary we can choose.”

During Merrfield and Hill's caucus, Zornio and Romanoff were the two candidates to receive enough votes to receive delegates to the state caucus.

Both Hill and Merrifield were chosen to serve as delegates to that caucus with Hill declaring it is his intention to run to be one of the state's electoral college electors, which are also selected at the state assembly.

“I want to vote for president,” Hill said. “I don't know what my chances are but I will carry a sign around saying 'vote for Dave.'”

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