Sanders’ win underscores party divide in state |

Sanders’ win underscores party divide in state

Kristen Wyatt
Associated Press
Participants line up before the start of the Democratic caucus in Boulder, Colo., Tuesday, March 1, 2016. Voters from Vermont to Colorado, Alaska to American Samoa and a host of states in between took to polling places and caucus sites Tuesday, on the busiest day of the 2016 primaries. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

DENVER — Bernie Sanders’ big Colorado win over Hillary Clinton in Tuesday’s presidential caucuses underscored a sharp divide between party elites and the voters. Top donors and elected Democrats here almost universally backed Clinton — but the throngs packing precinct causes disagreed.

Waving Sanders signs and sometimes homemade “Feel The Bern” posters, Democratic caucus-goers seemed unconcerned that party elites consider Sanders unpalatable to most voters.

“He is radical, and that’s what we need. We need a huge change,” said Madelyn Ryan, who is from Littleton and participated in her first precinct caucus Tuesday.

Sanders generated an impressive turnout among young adults at the precinct caucuses, especially in Denver and Boulder, where lines of voters surrounded some precincts more than an hour after caucusing began.

In Denver, Cole Kauffman, a nurse, also caucused for Sanders but was under no illusions about his chances of winning the nomination.

“I’m supporting Bernie in the hopes that it pulls Hillary to the left,” he said.

Standing next to him, his wife, Elena Harman, scowled. She was one of few in the liberal neighborhood wearing a Clinton sticker on her jacket.

“I don’t dislike Bernie, but I feel domestic policy is a narrow part of what the president does, and I feel he’s not prepared to be commander in chief,” said Harman, who runs a firm that advises nonprofits. “The president has a lot more direct control of foreign policy.”

Clinton organized early in Colorado with 10 field offices. Sanders’ volunteers intensified their campaign in recent weeks, and Sanders held a Sunday rally in the university town of Fort Collins.

Colorado Republicans abandoned a presidential straw poll this year because the national GOP required a binding delegate vote. State party leaders would have no voice at the national convention if the winner here dropped out before then.

Instead, GOP caucus-goers declared their preferences for state and local races.

Some Republicans were frustrated that the party chose to wait on the presidential race.

“People wanted a say. They wanted to play a more active role and not have less than 50 people end up deciding who gets Colorado’s support,” said Republican Jennifer Churchfield of Englewood, a precinct captain who helped organize 18 precinct caucuses in Denver’s southern suburbs.

She said some groups wrote up unofficial “table precinct resolutions” to tell GOP higher-ups they want to see a primary election, something Colorado held in the 1990s and in the 2000 presidential race, then abandoned.

An attempt to re-instate the presidential primary in Colorado failed last year in the state Legislature.

Twelve states cast votes for party nominees Tuesday, the biggest single-day delegate haul of the nomination contests. Republicans voted in 11 states, with 595 delegates at stake. Democrats voted in 11 states and American Samoa, with 865 delegates up for grabs.