| AspenTimes.com

Colorado has both a caucus and a primary next month. Here’s how they will work.

Political caucuses have come under renewed criticism since the chaotic Democratic caucuses in Iowa earlier this month, but Coloradans have no reason for concern, state party and election leaders say.

Democratic and GOP caucus meetings are set to take place across Colorado on March 7, but the process will be much different than in Iowa, where it took days to sort out the results on the Democratic side. For one thing, caucus-goers here won’t be choosing presidential nominees. Registered voters will do that via ballots that are already being sent out.

Also, the parties won’t be using an app to report caucus results — technology that took the blame for the failures in Iowa.

“We really prioritize cyber-security in all of our election support systems,” Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold said.

Read the full story from The Denver Post.

5 things to know about the Colorado primary — and caucus

This is the first time in two decades Colorado will not use caucuses to select presidential candidates. Mail-in ballots for the presidential primary started going out to Colorado Republican, Democratic and unaffiliated voters last week. Ballots will be due back March 3, commonly known as Super Tuesday because more than a dozen states hold primaries then. This will be Colorado’s first year holding a primary on Super Tuesday.

Candidates for every office except president — such as state representative, district attorney and congressman — must either collect signatures or go through caucus and assembly to get on the June 30 primary ballot. Democratic and GOP caucus meetings are set to take place across Colorado on March 7. The caucus process is sometimes confusing, but basically, those who participate elect delegates who get to decide which of those non-presidential candidates go on to the next step of their elections.

Here are 5 things to know before you cast your votes.

How will results be reported?

The presidential primary results will be posted to the Secretary of State’s website March 3, and the Democratic Party plans to start posting results the following day. For the caucuses, the parties will be tallying and pulling results from the preference polls, reporting to their counties, which will then report to the Secretary of State.

Read the full story from The Denver Post.

2020ers look to Super Tuesday even as 2 other states loom

WASHINGTON — Nevada votes next and then South Carolina. But top Democrats vying for their party’s presidential nomination are already looking ahead to the biggest prize on the primary calendar: Super Tuesday, the slate of contests when more than a dozen states go to the polls.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is holding a town hall on Thursday night in the Washington suburb of Arlington, Virginia, a day before Sen. Bernie Sanders makes two North Carolina stops, then hits Texas. Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, will campaign in California between fundraisers in San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

All four states vote March 3, along with a crush of others, from Alabama to Colorado and from Maine to Utah, as well as Warren’s home state of Massachusetts and Sanders’ native Vermont. More than 1,300 delegates to the Democratic National Convention are at stake, about a third of the total.

The focus on Super Tuesday comes at a pivotal point in the campaign. For Sanders and Buttigieg, who have emerged in strong positions after contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, the travel gives them an opportunity to show their national appeal and woo larger concentrations of nonwhite voters. For struggling candidates like Warren, it’s a signal that they are still in the fight.

And for everyone, it’s a chance to prove they won’t cede this swath of delegate-rich states to Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former New York mayor who has spent months building his campaign around Super Tuesday. He campaigned in Tennessee on Wednesday and will be in Texas and North Carolina on Thursday.

“All bets are off this cycle,” said Texas Democratic strategist Colin Strother, who is bullish on Bloomberg’s chances of resonating in his state and beyond.

So far, there’s no sign that candidates are completely bypassing Nevada or South Carolina. Every leading contender will be in Nevada this weekend as early voting begins. Democrats will caucus there on Feb. 22.

But some are shifting their resources as they begin an awkward balancing act of paying attention to the remaining early states while stockpiling enough money to keep themselves in the conversation in the bevy of contests unfolding next month. Warren, for instance, will be in South Carolina on Friday but is pulling television advertising from the state after this weekend. Some of that money will instead go to the Super Tuesday state of Maine.

Bloomberg, who is self-funding his campaign, doesn’t have to make such considerations. He’s skipped the first four states to deploy a political shock-and-awe campaign after that, spending heavily on television ads while already hiring more than 2,100 staffers in 40 states and U.S. territories, including all voting on Super Tuesday.

Past candidates have tried to forgo the early states in favor of larger ones voting later, with little success — including another former New York mayor, Rudy Giuliani, in 2008. But Bloomberg is making a larger bet on doing so than anyone has. He’s worth an estimated $60 billion and has already spent more than $200 million to hastily build a campaign infrastructure — with promises of plenty more where that came from.

The candidates doing battle before Super Tuesday, meanwhile, are a study in contrasts. Warren has deep campaign infrastructure in around 30 states but little momentum. Former Vice President Joe Biden left New Hampshire for South Carolina before the polls even closed on Tuesday, has important connections there and is counting on that to carry him in other southern Super Tuesday states. But he, so far, has fared worse than Warren.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar placed a strong third in New Hampshire but hasn’t yet built a national campaign, while Buttigieg is on a roll but faces questions about his appeal beyond the early majority-white states.

Fresh off his New Hampshire win, Sanders has already predicted victory in Nevada and California, pointing in part to his campaign’s outreach to Hispanic voters. But he’s also bet on record turnout that never materialized in Iowa, despite his efforts to grow the electorate.

Warren and Sanders have been sharply critical of Bloomberg, accusing him of trying to buy the election. In a memo coming out of New Hampshire, Warren’s team sought to reassure supporters that it will find its political footing on Super Tuesday, arguing the senator should win the minimum support required to claim delegates — at least 15% — in 108 of the 150 districts voting, or two-thirds of the Super Tuesday map.

“Warren is poised to finish in the top two in eight of 14 Super Tuesday states and “in the top three in all of them,” Warren’s campaign manager, Roger Lau, wrote.

States like Texas and California are so large that on-the-ground retail politicking often doesn’t work well there. But Super Tuesday state residents have already seen weeks of Bloomberg ads, Strother said, and that could potentially already be swaying those participating in early voting, which is underway in places like Minnesota.

“It’s unprecedented what he’s doing and the money he’s spending,” Strother said. “He’s running a national campaign, which is what all these other candidates wish they could do.”

Sanders targets Bloomberg spending at Colorado rally

DENVER — Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said he wants to bring an end to a system in which billionaires can buy elections.

Sanders referred to rival Michael Bloomberg in his speech Sunday night in Denver, The Denver Post reported.

“We’re going to end a corrupt political system in which billionaires buy elections,” Sanders said. “Democracy, to me, means one person, one vote. Not Bloomberg or anybody else spending hundreds of millions of dollars trying to buy an election.”

Bloomberg has focused his campaign on Colorado and other Super Tuesday states, spending more than $417 million of his own money so far.

Sanders is seeking to keep his momentum after strong showings in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Officials say about 11,000 people attended the rally for Sanders at the Colorado Convention Center.

President Donald Trump and Democratic candidates Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren are also scheduled to make campaign appearances in Colorado this week.

Hickenlooper files petitions for Democratic Senate primary

DENVER — Colorado U.S. Senate candidate John Hickenlooper filed voter petitions with the secretary of state’s office Wednesday in hopes of qualifying for the Democratic Party’s June 30 primary.

The former two-term governor is in a crowded field of Democrats hoping to face Republican Cory Gardner in November. Gardner is considered one of the most vulnerable GOP senators seeking re-election because Colorado has become reliably Democratic in the age of President Donald Trump.

Hickenlooper dropped a presidential bid in August and joined a Democratic Senate race that includes former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff.

Major party candidates can either petition their way onto their respective primary ballots or garner enough votes to qualify through a process that begins with party caucuses on March 7 and concludes with state assemblies on April 18.

Successful petitioners need to present at least 1,500 valid voter signatures from each of Colorado’s seven congressional districts to qualify.

Democrats won’t commit to same-day release of Nevada results

LAS VEGAS — Democrats won’t commit to releasing the unofficial results of Saturday’s Nevada caucuses on the day of the vote, as they emphasize accuracy over speed in the aftermath of the chaos surrounding the Iowa caucuses.

Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told The Associated Press that several factors, including early voting and potentially high turnout, could affect the tabulation and timing of results. In addition, Nevada, like Iowa, will be reporting three sets of data from the multistage caucus process.

Perez said he doesn’t know when results will be released. “We’re going to do our best to release results as soon as possible, but our North Star, again, is accuracy,” he said late Tuesday after touring an early voting site in Las Vegas.

Nevada Democrats are hoping to avoid a repeat of the chaos that ensnared the Iowa caucuses this month. Unlike the November general election and state primaries that are run by state and local election officials, the caucuses are administered by state parties.

Election officials, in general, have been raising concerns about public expectations to report results quickly, noting that totals reported on Election Day are unofficial. It takes weeks for votes to become official, after the results are checked and any irregularities are investigated. Election experts say it’s better to slow down reporting if problems surface to ensure results are accurate.

“If they set up expectations now, that’s a lot better than bungling the reporting like they did in Iowa and have everybody question what happened,” said Lawrence Norden, an elections expert with the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU’s Law School.

A rushed effort by Iowa Democrats to deploy a mobile app to caucus organizers for sending in results ended in failure, with some volunteers unable to download it to their personal cellphones or access it and a coding error muddying the data that was sent in.

Nevada Democrats were going to use the same mobile app developer as Iowa, but quickly sidelined those plans. Instead, they will deploy party-owned, internet-connected iPads to precincts that will come with a Google form that will be used to access early vote totals, perform calculations during the caucus process and, ultimately, submit results electronically to the party.

The Google app and iPads are trusted commercial tech tools, but election experts have warned that developing and deploying any technology late in the process increases the risk of problems. Hundreds of volunteers need training, and the technology must also be field-tested.

In addition, Nevada Democrats offered early voting for the first time — another layer of complexity that Iowa didn’t attempt.

Party officials have emphasized that a multistep process will be used to verify results that will include calling in results to a secure hotline and a paper worksheet that will be completed at each precinct and delivered to a party office. They have also been holding numerous trainings, with 55 sessions before Saturday.

“We understand just how important it is that we get this right and protect the integrity of Nevadans’ votes,” Shelby Wiltz, caucus director of the Nevada state Democratic Party, said in a statement.

Tuesday was the first time any in-person training for volunteers was held involving the iPad and the Google form, according to Seth Morrison, a volunteer who will be leading a site with six precincts on Saturday. Morrison attended the training in Las Vegas and said two of the three iPads at the location failed initially to power on. Only four other volunteers were present.

Morrison said he thought the Google form was easy to use but expressed concern for those who may not be able to attend the training and for those who may not be tech-savvy.

“I’m glad they are making an effort and that we finally have more training materials and information,” Morrison said. “I am still concerned but committed to do the best I can.”

Precinct chairs will have a passphrase to access the Google form, party officials said. In addition, data transmissions will be encrypted to boost security. The iPads will be connecting to the internet by cellular network or local WiFi, the party said.

Volunteers and campaigns have raised concerns about how early voters will be integrated into the multistage caucus process. Jeff Weaver, senior adviser to Bernie Sanders’ campaign, said this was a top concern, despite assurances.

Paper records of the early vote will be available to precinct chairs if the iPads or Google forms fail, but the math formulas may prove complicated when incorporating the early votes into the in-person results.

Perez said Nevada Democrats were working on contingency plans in case something goes wrong. He noted that the DNC’s tech team has “been helping for some time, and they’ve been on the ground since shortly after Iowa.”

“We learned some hard lessons in Iowa,” Perez said. “I think one of the values that we add here is putting those lessons to bear.”

Bloomberg campaign spending tops $409 million

WASHINGTON — Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg has plunged over $400 million of his personal fortune into his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, an astronomical sum that has led many of his rivals to charge that he is trying to buy the crown.

The figures, which his campaign released ahead of Thursday’s campaign finance reporting deadline, lay bare the massive operation the billionaire has built since his late entrance into the race at the end of November.

Other leading contenders have yet to detail their finances, which weren’t due until midnight. But the sheer size and scope of Bloomberg’ spending left little doubt that he is vastly outspending even his best financed rivals like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

It’s enabled him to build a sprawling apparatus, hire staff, court influential political figures and communicate with voters both online and on TV. That gives him an edge in the states that have yet to vote where the other contenders have only minimal operations.

“Our campaign has built a nationwide organization that is engaging voters daily about Mike’s record of taking on tough fights and winning,” campaign manager Kevin Sheekey said in a statement. “With over 2,400 staff across 43 states today, Mike is the only candidate with the record and resources to build the national infrastructure Democrats need to beat Donald Trump.”

Bloomberg’s campaign reported spending $220 million in the month of January alone. Forty-five million of that went toward digital advertising; another $126 million was spent on TV.

Payroll in January for his legions of staffers, who are paid above market-rate salaries, was $7.7 million, while corporate housing for many staffers cost an additional $1.2 million

Rent for his more than 100 campaign office cost $1.3 million

The eye-popping figures could help Bloomberg turn the corner on a widely-panned debate performance Wednesday night in Las Vegas, where he struggled to respond to attacks, particularly from Warren. She spearheaded a broad take-down, harshly criticizing him as “a billionaire who calls people fat broads and horse-faced lesbians” while highlighting his past embrace of “stop and frisk” police tactics as mayor that predominantly affected minorities.

After the debate Warren even warned that he was likely to use a new tranche of spending to move beyond the debate stage brawl.

“You know what I’ll bet he’s doing right now? I’ll bet he’s reaching in his pocket and spending $100 million more on advertising to try to erase everyone’s memory of what happened last night,” Warren said during an appearance Thursday on ABC’s The View.

AP FACT CHECK: Dems’ sticky health debate; Trump’s rally

WASHINGTON (AP) — Who’s got the goods on health care policy? That question was an undercurrent in the feisty Democratic presidential debate as rivals stood accused of being lightweights who have done little more than put up Post-it notes or slideshows on the subject.

Also in the Las Vegas debate, Mike Bloomberg spoke of coming to the realization that stop-and-frisk policing policies were being overused by his police department when he was New York mayor. Actually, a judge ruled against the practice and the mayor assailed the “dangerous” decision at the time.

From Phoenix, President Donald Trump ribbed the debating Democrats and twisted the health plans of some of them in the process.

A look at how some of their claims Wednesday night stack up with the facts:

___

POST-ITS?

ELIZABETH WARREN on Amy Klobuchar’s health plan: “It is like a Post-it note, insert plan here. … Amy, I looked online at your plan. It’s two paragraphs.”

THE FACTS: That’s not true. Klobuchar’s health care policies run thousands of words online, addressing coverage, substance abuse and mental health, prescription drugs and the elderly. Some of her material lacks specifics found in the plans of several of her rivals. Yet aspects of her agenda are grounded in detailed legislation led or supported by the senator from Minnesota.

It’s true that Klochuchar’s main health policy page devotes two paragraphs to summarizing her way of achieving universal coverage. But that’s not the extent of her plan.

___

KLOBUCHAR, smiling: “I must say, I take personal offense since Post-it notes were invented in my state.”

THE FACTS: Yes, Post-it notes are one of the most well-known consumer products of St. Paul-based 3M, once known as the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co.

___

BERNIE SANDERS, to Pete Buttigieg: “Let’s level, Pete. Under your plan, which is a maintenance continuation of the status quo — “

WARREN: Buttigieg’s health care plan is “not a plan. It’s a PowerPoint.”

THE FACTS: It’s more than the status quo and more than a PowerPoint presentation. Buttigieg’s plan would cover almost all U.S. citizens and legal residents, even if it’s not as far reaching as the proposals of Sanders and Warren.

An analysis of health care overhaul plans by the Urban Institute and the Commonwealth Fund found that an approach like the one advocated by Buttigieg ,would reduce the number of uninsured people from more than 32 million to below 7 million. Those 7 million would mainly be people who are in the country illegally.

The proposal from Buttigieg features a new government-sponsored “public option” plan that even people with employer-sponsored coverage could join voluntarily.

Warren’s put-down of Buttigieg’s plan comes after she reconsidered her own approach to “Medicare for All,” deciding to proceed in stages. She would first expand coverage by building on existing programs and postpone the push for a system fully run by the government until the third year of her presidency.

___

STOP AND FRISK

BLOOMBERG, on the stop-and-frisk policing policy when he was New York mayor: “What happened, however, was it got out of control and when we discovered — I discovered — that we were doing many, many, too many stop and frisks, we cut 95% of them out.”

THE FACTS: That’s a distortion of how stop and frisk declined. That happened because of a court order, not because Bloomberg had a revelation. When the ruling came out, Bloomberg called it a “dangerous decision made by a judge who I think does not understand how policing works and what is compliant with the U.S. Constitution.”

In Bloomberg’s first 10 years in office, the number of stop-and-frisk actions increased nearly 600% from when he took office in 2002, reaching a peak of nearly 686,000 stops in 2011. That declined to about 192,000 documented stops in 2013, his final year as mayor.

Bloomberg achieved his claim of a 95% cut by cherry-picking the quarterly high point of 203,500 stops in the first quarter of 2012 and comparing that with the 12,485 stops in the last quarter of 2013.

The former mayor defended the practice even after leaving office at the end of 2013 and only apologized for it a few weeks before declaring his candidacy for presidency.

___

TRUMP

TRUMP, on Sanders’ Medicare for all plan: “Think of this: 180 million Americans are going to lose health care coverage under this plan. But if you don’t mind, I’m not going to criticize it tonight. Let them keep going and I’ll start talking about it about two weeks out from the election.” — Arizona rally.

THE FACTS: That’s a thorough misrepresentation of the Sanders plan as well as similar plans by Democrats in Congress. People wouldn’t “lose” coverage. Under Sanders, they would be covered by a new and universal government plan that replaces private and job-based insurance. Democrats who stop short of proposing to replace private and job-based insurance would offer an option for people to take a Medicare-like plan, also toward the goal of ensuring universal coverage.

___

DIRTY COAL

BLOOMBERG, citing his philanthropy’s work with the Sierra Club: “Already we’ve closed 304 out of the 530 coal fire plants in the United States, and we’ve closed 80 out of the 200 or 300 that are in Europe.”

THE FACTS: He’s wrongly taking credit for driving the U.S. coal industry to its knees.

The U.S. coal industry’s plunge is largely due to market forces, above all drops in prices of natural gas and renewable energy that have made costlier coal-fired power plants much less competitive for electric utilities. Bloomberg has indeed contributed huge sums to efforts to close coal plants and fight climate change, but against the backdrop of an industry besieged on other fronts.

U.S. coal production peaked in 2008, but since then has fallen steadily. That’s due largely to a boom in oil and gas production from U.S. shale, begun under the Obama administration, that made natural gas far more abundant and cheaper, and falling prices for wind and solar energy, partly because of improving technology in the renewable sector.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration reaffirmed in a report in December the extent to which the market has turned away from coal.

___

Associated Press writers Jonathan Lemire in New York, Ellen Knickmeyer in Washington and Amanda Seitz in Chicago contributed to this report.

Trump reelection campaign, RNC to spend $10M on voting lawsuits

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee announced Thursday that they will spend more than $10 million during the 2020 election cycle to battle Democrats on voting-related lawsuits and to bolster their Election Day operations.

The announcement comes one day after the RNC and the Michigan Republican Party formally requested that a federal judge in Michigan’s Eastern District allow the groups to be added as defendants in a lawsuit filed by the Democratic-aligned super PAC Priorities USA. The super PAC is challenging state laws that prohibit political organizers from helping voters submit absentee ballot applications and bar groups from hiring people to transport voters to the polls.

The Republican promise to dedicate millions to anticipated voting rights fights follows court challenges by left-leaning groups against states that they believe are unconstitutionally suppressing participation in elections.

RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in announcing the new spending on legal efforts that the Republican Party is ready “to aggressively defend” its stake in the November elections.

“Democrats are trying to rig the game with frivolous lawsuits that do nothing but create electoral chaos, waste taxpayer money, and distract election officials in an attempt to advance the Democrats’ voter suppression myth because they know they can’t beat President Trump at the ballot box,” McDaniel said. “These actions are dangerous, and we will not stand idly by while Democrats try to sue their way to victory in 2020.”

Democrats see addressing voting rights in the lead-up to the November elections as crucial after Trump won the White House in 2016 by razor-thin margins in the battleground states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The Trump campaign and the RNC said they also plan to train thousands of lawyers and volunteers in battleground states on federal rules for early voting, Election Day activities, post-election canvassing, and potential recounts.

Guy Cecil, chairman of Priorities USA, on Twitter called the Trump campaign and RNC effort “shameful” and vowed the group “won’t stop fighting voter suppression until every barrier to the ballot box is torn down.”

News of the GOP legal campaign was first reported by Politico.

Three Pitkin County board seats open in November

Three of the five seats on the Pitkin County board of commissioners are up for grabs in November, and two incumbents and one newcomer already have declared their intentions to run.

“I just love Pitkin County and I really want to start giving back to the community that has been home for so long,” said Francie Jacober, a retired teacher and resident of Prince Creek Road who will run for the District 5 seat occupied by Commissioner George Newman.

Commissioners Steve Child and Greg Poschman — who represent Districts 4 and 3, respectively — said Wednesday they plan to file paperwork to run for those seats again.

“I really enjoy being a commissioner,” said Child, who will run for his third term. “It’s very challenging and a great way to give back to the community and have an impact on where things are going.”

Poschman, who will run for his second term, said he only made the decision recently.

“We’re doing some good things,” he said, “and I want to see them through.”

Pitkin County commissioners are term-limited after serving three four-year terms on the board, which is why Newman will be leaving the board after 12 years when his third term ends in January.

The three seats up for reelection in November represent the non-Aspen areas of Pitkin County. Child lives off Capitol Creek Road in Old Snowmass and Poschman lives in Brush Creek Village near the intersection of Highway 82 and Brush Creek Road. Newman lives in Emma.

Detailed maps of each district are available on the county commissioners page on the Pitkin County website next to each commissioner’s picture.

Those interested in running for commissioner can go to pitkinvotes.com and click on “candidate resources” under the “additional resources” subhead. Interested prospective commissioners should click on the 2020 candidate packet and print it out, said Janice Vos Caudill, Pitkin County clerk and recorder.

The packet contains information about campaign finance, due dates for particular filings and rules for running for office, she said. All candidates must obtain 100 signatures from Pitkin County registered voters.

Those petitions won’t be available until April 1, Vos Caudill said. Prospective candidates will have three weeks to gather and turn in the signatures, she said. They also must file a candidate affidavit within 10 days of announcing their candidacy.

Pitkin County commissioner seats are elected on an at-large, non-partisan basis. The top two vote-getters in each district in the primary will face off in the general election.

This year’s state primary is June 30, and the general election is Nov. 3.

jauslander@aspentimes.com