Sanders over Clinton in Pitkin County
The Aspen Times
The Pitkin County Democratic caucus was packed like a rock concert on Super Tuesday, while the scene at the Republican caucus looked more like bingo night at the local community center.
The differing scenes weren’t surprising in historically blue Pitkin County, but thanks to the Colorado Republican Party’s decision to remove the presidential-preference poll from this year’s caucuses, the energy was especially subdued at the GOP’s caucus.
First-time Republican caucus participant John Allman of Snowmass said it feels as though the state’s Republican process is broken. He said labeling Tuesday’s caucus as a grassroots process “is a sham.”
“It’s outrageous. It’s a poor process in that you feel detached,” he said. “You come here for a pep rally? Oh please. You’re so uninvolved and your vote really means nothing — well, you don’t vote, basically. There’s a straw poll but it’s totally unofficial.”
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Allman was referring to local Republican activist Steve Goldenberg’s decision to conduct an unofficial straw poll Tuesday night. He passed out ballots and collected 101 votes for Republican presidential candidates, providing the only real insight from caucus night into who local Republicans are supporting for president. Real estate mogul Donald Trump received 35 votes for 35 percent; Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida got 28 votes for 28 percent; Ohio Gov. John Kasich grabbed 19 votes for 19 percent; retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson had 10 votes for 10 percent; and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas with 9 votes for 9 percent.
Allman said he was shocked to see so much support for Trump in what he described as a highly educated Republican electorate in Pitkin County.
“I think he’s so unqualified, it’s staggering. He’s a demagogue, he’s dangerous, he plays to everyone’s worst fears, so I’m slightly outraged actually over the whole thing,” he said.
Pitkin County Republican Committee Chair Bob Jenkins was thrilled with Tuesday’s turnout — he said about 75 people had pre-registered, but as of Tuesday evening just before 7 p.m. there were 200 people registered to caucus. That’s a big number for a Republican caucus in deeply blue Pitkin County, he said.
“Republicans are motivated, they’re involved,” Jenkins said. “This is fabulous for us. Total (Republicans) voting at elections is doing nothing but going up.”
Pitkin Democrats are fired up for Bernie, hillary
Roughly 1,000 Democrats packed into Aspen High School on Super Tuesday, with democratic socialist Bernie Sanders scoring 28 delegates over opponent Hillary Clinton’s 23 delegates in Tuesday’s preference poll in Pitkin County.
Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder Janice Caudill said to the energized crowd of registered Democrats that she has “never seen such a crowd” at any caucus in the past. Caudill’s remark was met with loud cheers and applause.
“This is the biggest caucus we’ve seen, everyone agrees,” said Betty Wallach, a precinct representative for Hillary Clinton. “The biggest ever.”
Sanders supporter Leonard Lutomski focused on the issue of socioeconomic class; Clinton supporter Blanca O’Leary talked about race and gender equality as well as immigration policies.
Aspen High School civics teacher Chris Wheatley expressed his excitement at the level of support felt in the Aspen High School cafeteria and also the prospect of either Democratic candidate as president.
Like Wheatley, many Democrats who participated in Tuesday night’s caucus said they had no preference between either Democratic candidate and would be happy to see either win the presidential election.
Pitkin County Democrat Anders Head cited a recent article in The Huffington Post article that predicted Clinton to lose the presidential election to Republican candidate Donald Trump, and said this is one of the main reasons that he supports Sanders over Clinton.
“According that article, if we all vote for Hillary, she will lose to Trump,” Head said. “So we should all jump on board with Bernie.”
Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron said he felt encouraged by the turnout and enthusiasm at the Democratic caucus.
“I think our democracy is best when there’s broad public engagement,” Skadron said. “And we saw that tonight.”
But Democrat Meg Kaufman echoed the sentiments of Republican voter Allman in her criticism of the “absurd” caucus process. She called the head-counting by hand “archaic and foolish.”
So what’s next? For the Republicans, it’s hard to quantify how many state assembly delegates each candidate will end up with, but the Democrats now have a clearer idea of which candidate — Sanders — has more popularity. That popularity doesn’t necessarily equal the most delegates, however, due to the way 43 of the 66 delegates are selected via congressional districts. The Democrats host their state convention April 15, while Republicans host their state assembly April 9.
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Local officials don’t think Aspen and Pitkin County residents are taking social distancing and isolation rules seriously enough, and reiterated Monday their importance in controlling the spread of the coronavirus.