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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.

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.

Presidential primary ballots mailed out

Ballots for Colorado’s first presidential primary election in 20 years were mailed Monday to registered Democrats and Republicans, Pitkin County’s clerk said.

State voters decided in 2016 to replace Colorado’s caucus system with a primary, which means that registered Republicans and Democrats will receive a ballot with their party’s nominees in the mail. Unaffiliated voters will receive both ballots, though they can return only one.

The ballots will feature 17 Democrats and six Republicans, said Janice Vos Caudill, Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder.

The last day to put the ballots in the mail is Feb. 24, when early voting begins, she said. Before that and after, Pitkin County voters can take ballots to drop-off boxes in front of the Pitkin County Building in Aspen, at Snowmass Village Town Hall and at Basalt Town Hall, she said. The boxes can be used 24 hours a day, seven days a week and are monitored by video surveillance.

Early voting at the Pitkin County Building will take place between Feb. 24 and March 2 from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., with Saturday voting occurring between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

For those who don’t want to vote early, Colorado’s presidential primary will take place March 3, when registered voters can go to the Pitkin County Building and vote between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., Vos Caudill said.

Colorado’s renewed presidential primary means that 17-year-olds who will be 18 by Nov. 3 — the date of this year’s presidential election — can participate.

Colorado will hold another primary June 30 to determine who will run for state races and U.S. House and Senate contests in November.

Democrat Donald Valdez drops congressional bid, attempt to unseat Tipton in 3rd U.S. House district

Democrat Donald Valdez has ended his bid to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, opting instead to seek a third term in the state legislature. 

Valdez, of La Jara, announced his congressional campaign over the summer and was only able to raise about $25,000. He faced three others in the Democratic primary to face Tipton in 2020. 

Valdez said he was leaving the race because of threats to the aquifer in the San Luis Valley, a broad swath of which he represents. 

Sean Tonner, deputy chief of staff to former Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, wants to drill a series of wells on his recently acquired Rancho Rosado and pipe 22,000 acre-feet of water a year around the Sangre de Cristos to the Front Range. (Owens is a principal at Tonner’s company, Renewable Water Resources.)

Click here to read the full story from The Colorado Sun.

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Hickenlooper’s Colorado Senate bid ends another Democrat’s campaign

DENVER — John Hickenlooper’s Colorado Senate run has pushed another Democrat out of the party’s crowded primary.

Former U.S. Attorney John Walsh announced Wednesday he was suspending his campaign for the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican Sen. Cory Gardner. Walsh endorsed Hickenlooper as the most electable Democrat in the field.

Hickenlooper is a former two-term Colorado governor who shrugged off Democratic pleas to challenge Gardner for a brief presidential bid. Last month he ended his White House ambitions and belatedly entered the Senate race. A dozen Democrats had already gotten in before Hickenlooper announced.

Walsh’s departure follows that of former State Sen. Mike Johnston, who dropped out last week because he didn’t want to attack Hickenlooper.

Gardner is considered the most vulnerable Republican incumbent in the country.

Ex-Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper says he’s running for Senate

DENVER — Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said Thursday that he will run for the U.S. Senate, becoming the immediate front-runner in a crowded Democratic field vying for the right to challenge Republican incumbent Cory Gardner.

He made his announcement via a video message in which he blasted Washington lawmakers over soaring prescription drug prices, the failure to act on climate change and the use of public lands by developers.

“I know changing Washington is hard, but I want to give it a shot,” he says. “I’m not done fighting for the people of Colorado.”

Hickenlooper last year brushed off entreaties from Washington Democrats to challenge Gardner, widely seen as the most vulnerable Republican senator in the country. Instead he mounted a longshot presidential campaign that collapsed before it ended in mid-August. Many Colorado Democratic and Republican strategists began to view a Hickenlooper entry into the Senate race as inevitable at that point.

Hickenlooper, an oil geologist turned brewpub owner who decided to run for Denver mayor in 2003 and won two gubernatorial elections, has loomed over Colorado politics for two decades. But his moderate, consensus-oriented approach may not be as good a fit in a state shifting to the left. Numerous Democrats — all younger than the 67-year-old former governor — announced their challenges to Gardner after Hickenlooper shifted his sights to the White House, and none has indicated he or she would step aside now. Indeed, one, state Sen. Angela Williams, warned “this won’t be a coronation.”

Some of the candidates raised almost as much campaign money as Hickenlooper did in his brief presidential bid. But national Democrats have been nervous that a messy and expensive primary would lead to a damaged challenger facing Gardner, widely acknowledged as a skilled politician and fundraiser. Though he will have to fight for the nomination, Hickenlooper is widely viewed as the front-runner because of his high name identification in the state and good standing among its Democrats.

Though Hickenlooper initially strongly rejected the idea of running for the Senate, saying he wasn’t cut out for the job, he reined in his denials as his presidential campaign stumbled. Hickenlooper kept conversations open with the top Senate Democrat, Chuck Schumer, who continued to press him to run. Democratic groups commissioned polls to convince him that he’d be the favorite, and a group that advocates for scientific-minded members of Congress started a draft Hickenlooper campaign.

Hickenlooper was not very involved in the details of legislative horse-trading during his eight years as governor and is known to yearn for an executive role. But, given the record of his presidential run, the Senate race seemed like his best path to Washington. Republicans hope that the governor damaged his reputation with his presidential bid and that the Democratic Party’s generational struggles will wound him further in the primary.

John Hickenlooper drops out of 2020 presidential race

DENVER — Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper on Thursday ended his longshot bid for the Democratic presidential nomination and said he may instead challenge one of the most vulnerable Senate Republicans in 2020.

In a video message, Hickenlooper said he had heard from many in his state urging him to enter the Senate race.

“They remind me how much is at stake for our country. And our state,” he said. “I intend to give that some serious thought.”

Colorado’s shift to the left could put Sen. Cory Gardner’s seat in jeopardy for Republicans, and at least 10 Democrats have launched campaigns, setting up a competitive primary even before Hickenlooper, 67, makes a decision.

Hickenlooper became a leading figure in Colorado with his quirky, consensus-driven and unscripted approach to politics. He once jumped out of a plane to promote a ballot measure to increase state spending, and he won two statewide elections during years of Republican waves. He also was Denver’s mayor.

He began his White House campaign in March, promising to unite the country. Instead, he quickly became a political punch line.

Founding a series of brewpubs made Hickenlooper a multimillionaire. But shortly before taking his first trip to Iowa as a presidential candidate, he balked on national television at calling himself a capitalist. Then, at a CNN town hall, he recounted how he once took his mother to see a pornographic movie.

With the campaign struggling to raise money, his staff urged Hickenlooper to instead challenge Gardner. But Hickenlooper stayed in and hired another group of aides in a last-ditch effort to turn around his campaign.

He positioned himself as a common-sense candidate who couldn’t be labeled a “socialist” by Republicans. But Hickenlooper couldn’t make his voice heard in the crowded Democratic field of about two dozen candidates.

It didn’t help that, by Hickenlooper’s own admission, he was a mediocre debater and an erratic public speaker. In the end, he could not scrape together enough money for many of his trademark quirky ads, only launching one in which avid beer drinkers toast Hickenlooper by comparing him to favorite brews. He became the second Democrat to end a presidential bid after Rep. Eric Swalwell pulled out of the primary last month.

“While this campaign didn’t have the outcome we were hoping for, every moment has been worthwhile,” Hickenlooper tweeted on Thursday.

Republicans seized on the meltdown of Hickenlooper’s campaign as evidence the Democratic Party has become too radical. “A two-term governor of a swing state and #2020 presidential #Democrat candidate who was booed for warning against his party’s embrace of socialist policies has been forced out of the race,” tweeted Kellyanne Conway, a top Trump aide.

But Hickenlooper’s own supporters attributed his failure partly to the persistence of former Vice President Joe Biden’s strong position in the Democratic primary field. Hickenlooper launched his presidential bid presuming that the 76-year-old Biden would stumble, and the electorate would be hungry for another centrist with a track record of winning white moderates. But Biden remains in the lead in primary polls.

Hickenlooper softened his denials of interest in the Senate in recent weeks as his campaign finances dwindled and pressure increased from other Democrats. He met with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who had urged Hickenlooper last year to challenge Gardner, shortly after a disappointing performance during the second Democratic debate in July. A former Hickenlooper strategist registered internet domains like “Hick4Senate.com” in the hopes of persuading him to run.

Hickenlooper also recently met with Colorado’s Democratic secretary of state, Jena Griswold, who was mulling a run against Gardner. Griswold last week announced she would not challenge Gardner. That decision led to widespread speculation among Colorado Democrats that Hickenlooper will eventually run. He has plenty of time to make up his mind — the primary is not until June 2020, and the former governor enjoys wide name recognition.

If he entered the Democratic primary, Hickenlooper would be “the absolute favorite,” said Mike Stratton, a veteran Democratic strategist in Denver.

Hickenlooper would also be the oldest candidate in the Senate race, competing against politicians whose recent fundraising hauls have matched or exceeded the $1 million that Hickenlooper raised for his presidential bid in the second quarter of the year.

Some of the Democrats in the Senate primary already began taking shots at Hickenlooper on Thursday.

“He spent his time in Iowa running for president and as governor working and campaigning against bold, progressive solutions that will move Colorado and the country forward,” said state Sen. Angela Williams in a statement. “If he’s going to switch gears and run for the Senate, he has a lot to explain to Colorado voters. This won’t be a coronation.”

Others have said they don’t intend to step aside even if the former governor runs.

“What I heard Gov. Hickenlooper tell everybody who asked is, he wasn’t cut out to be a senator and didn’t want the job,” said former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, one of the primary contenders, in a radio interview.

Hickenlooper got some support from one of his former presidential rivals. “I think it’s always good when anybody who has been a mayor is in the Senate because they have a little more of that background of getting things done,” said Pete Buttigieg during a campaign stop in Iowa. “Certainly, if he chooses to run, he’ll make an outstanding senator.”

Cory Gardner spars with Democrats in campaign stop at Minturn Saloon

MINTURN — Sen. Cory Gardner touted his bipartisan record on Tuesday night at the Minturn Saloon in a campaign stop that drew supporters and a sizeable Democratic contingent. 

Gardner, speaking to a crowd of about 60 that included local Democratic state lawmakers, Sen. Kerry Donovan of Vail and Rep. Dylan Roberts, faced a number of pointed questions from Eagle County residents, particularly on the Colorado Outdoor Recreation & Economy Act and his stance on climate change. 

Joy Harrison, the former chair of the Eagle County Democrats, pleaded with Gardner to support the CORE Act in a seven-minute back-and-forth exchange.

“It’s an incredibly important bill that would preserve these incredible public lands for our kids and our kids’ kids,” Harrison said. “Your vote and your support is absolutely critical because Republican Senators, your colleagues, are looking to you to see what you will signal.”

“The CORE Act has supporters and it has people who don’t like it,” Gardner said. “I think what’s important in Colorado is that we find that way to find something that people can support. I think that’s incredibly important.” 

“You’re dismissing so much work and so much coalition-building that has gone into this,” Harrison said.  

“All I said is we’ve got to find a way to find something that works,” Gardner responded. 

“The work is already done,” Harrison said. 

Gardner then responded that he has heard concerns from the Forest Service and the Department of Defense on the bill, which would preserve 400,000 acres of public lands in Colorado. 

“To be clear, I do not oppose this bill,” Gardner said.  

“Will you come out and support it for all of us in the room?” Harrison asked. 

“Joy, give me a second,” Gardner said. “What I hear from people in the Defense Department, when they have concerns with it, I take them at their word. So we know there are issues.”

Gail Flesher also grilled Gardner on whether he supports the lawsuit that Colorado recently joined suing the Environmental Protection Agency over a new rule that would replace the 2015 Clean Power Plan.

“I voted that climate change is real. I think it’s very important that we work to address climate concerns.” Gardner said. “Here’s what I’m concerned about — regulations that people will testify will kill thousands and thousands of jobs. I’m not willing to destroy our economy.”

Touting his record

Gardner, before taking questions, said he’s proud of the work he’s done in the Senate. Among those accomplishments: Getting the Bureau of Land Management moved to Grand Junction from Washington, D.C., passing a law that aims to protect wildland firefighters by requiring agencies to outfit crews with GPS locators and deploy drones to scout and map blazes, and bringing broadband to rural communities. 

He also talked about getting sanctions passed against North Korea, joking that one of his proudest moments as a senator was calling Kim Jong Un “a whack job” in an MSNBC interview, and then having the North Korean leader respond to that quote by calling him a man “mixed in with human dirt, who has lost basic judgment and body hair.”

Gardner said he’s still got the quote framed on his wall. 

Of the BLM move, Gardner said: “I believe that we’ll have better decisions, we’ll have a better result when the BLM management is nearest the people and the land that they impact.”

He added: “Every single one of those things I talked about, it wasn’t done by a Republican or Democrat. It was done by Republicans and Democrats coming together. Because that’s how we solve problems in this country and that’s what I’m excited about and continue to stand for.”

Different takes

Donovan zinged Gardner on Twitter last month after the reinsurance bill she cosponsored to lower premiums for Coloradans was given a federal waiver. 

Gardner, in a video, touted his work on helping move the bill along, which Donovan took serious issue with.

“I think what was most frustrating about him filming a video, putting it up, and claiming credit for something that he’s actively trying to undermine and eliminate was the point of frustration,” she said. “We’re from different parties, we have different values, we can disagree and have different priorities. But don’t post on social claiming credit to do something. He clearly claims credit for reinsurance and he is trying to dismantle the ACA on which reinsurance depends on.”

Kaye Ferry, the chair of the Eagle County Republicans, who hosted the event, said Gardner’s message was positive and that he listened to his critics on Tuesday and tried to give honest answers. 

“He’s never really changed. He’s always been the same Cory all the way through,” she said. “So I think he listens and I think he responds and I think he tries to make the best of the situation, which he did tonight. Unfortunately, we have parts of the community that just aren’t satisfied with any answer you give them.”

Colorado moves presidential primaries to Super Tuesday

DENVER — Colorado is moving up its 2020 presidential primaries from June to Super Tuesday in March, hoping to lure major party contenders to the purple state.

Gov. Jared Polis made the announcement Tuesday, adding Colorado to at least 10 states conducting their presidential primaries on March 3.

Under voter initiatives approved in 2016, independent voters — Colorado’s largest voting bloc — can participate in one or the other of the major party primaries.

“I think we can really highlight Colorado as a key state because among the Super Tuesday states, Colorado is one of the only ones that is also a competitive state for November — a purple state,” Polis said.

Down-ballot races will continue to be held in June.

Critics of the previous system argued the presidential race was largely decided by the time Colorado held its June primaries.

The 2016 ballot measure created winner-take-all Colorado presidential primaries in 2020, instead of non-binding caucuses.

Proponents argued that change would inspire candidates to try to appeal to centrist voters in an increasingly polarized political climate.

The 2016 caucuses were messy: Democrats struggled to accommodate every voter, and Republicans didn’t choose presidential delegates because the national party insisted the vote be binding. Independent voters were left out in the cold.

Then-Gov. John Hickenlooper, now a presidential candidate, supported the changes, as did U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, who also is expected to formally jump into the Democratic race.

Colorado held presidential primaries from 1992 to 2000 then dropped them to save money.

Giants California and Texas headline the list of Super Tuesday states.