Pitkin County caucuses kick off 2018 election on Tuesday | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County caucuses kick off 2018 election on Tuesday

Democrats and Republicans in Pitkin County will take the first step Tuesday in the nominating process leading up to the November midterm elections that include the contest for Colorado's next governor.

Call it caucus calculus, thanks to a complex state electoral process that starts at a grassroots level this week, followed by county, legislative district, congressional district and state assemblies, before advancing to the June primary elections and the deciding contests in November.

This week's decisions will be made on the main campus of the Aspen School District. Doors open at 6 p.m. at the high school, where Democrats will gather to register for their party caucus. Doors also open at 6 p.m. at the middle school, where the Republicans will convene. The caucusing among the county's 10 precincts begins at 7 p.m.

"People today are frustrated that the American Dream is not working," said Bob Jenkins, chairman of the Pitkin County Republicans. "These caucuses are the grassroots participation level of the American democratic system."

The caucuses will be a time when the parties will select their delegates for the April party assemblies, which is when the names on the June primary ballots — which also includes state and federal races — will be decided.

Pitkin County Democrats chair Howard Wallach said 44 candidates for delegates will be chosen at the caucus, with that number split to the final count of 22 delegates at the county assembly, which begins at 5:30 p.m. March 21 at the Aspen High School Black Box Theater.

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The Pitkin County Republicans assembly, however, will immediately follow Tuesday's caucus, Jenkins said.

The Pitkin County Democrats will take a straw pole for governor; the Republicans will not.

Wallach noted that only one Democratic candidate for governor, Cary Kennedy, is seeking a nomination exclusively through the caucus process. Jared Polis, Mike Johnston, and Noel Ginsberg are participating in both caucusing and petitioning, while Donna Lynne is only petitioning.

Tuesday's caucus participation is open only to voters who either affiliated as a Democrat or Republican in early January and were registered to vote no later than the first week of February.

Pitkin County had more unaffiliated voters (5,526, or 43 percent) than either major party in the November 2016 elections. There were 4,933 Democrats, 38 percent of active registered voters in the county at the time, and 2,192 Republicans, or 17 percent, according to the Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder's Office.

While unaffiliated voters will sit out the caucuses, they can cast their ballots in the June 26 primary election on either the Democrat or Republican ticket, following voters' approval of Proposition 108 in 2016.

Chairs of the county's Democrat and Republican party said they are not expecting huge turnouts, with approximately 30 for the GOP caucus and more than 100 for the Dems.

For more information on the operations of each Pitkin County party, visit the Democrats' website at http://www.coloradodems.org/counties/pitkin-county, and the Republicans' at http://www.pitkinpolitics.org.

rcarroll@aspentimes.com