Tonight’s forum explained |

Tonight’s forum explained

The fact that we have organized a final public forum for tonight at 5:15 p.m. at City Hall, and that it is being co-sponsored by the Democratic party, the Republican party and broadcast by GrassRoots has caused several people to ask two surprising questions.

First, several people have said they thought that local elections were “nonpartisan” and they did not know that political parties play a role. Second, several people have said that, since the final forum is being sponsored by the Democratic and Republican parties is it not, therefore, “exclusionary.” Good questions.

As to the role of the Democratic party in local elections: for the several years that I have been chairman, the party has been very active in every election at the municipal, county, state and federal levels, registering new voters, getting the vote out, supporting any candidates who have asked the party for its endorsement, organizing candidate forums and helping to count, record and certify the vote.

Although helping to count and certify the vote is part of the law, it is satisfying overkill in Pitkin County and the city of Aspen, where the clerk’s offices’ staff are so conscientious, hardworking and painstakingly careful with every vote that observing the process has renewed my faith in the democratic process and made me proud to be a citizen of this valley.

As is true at the national and state levels, in all local elections a candidate may run as a Democrat if they win the party endorsement (a party election), or run as a Republican, a Green, a Libertarian, some other party affiliation, an Independent or nothing at all, if practical.

In our valley, in order to be successful, anyone running as a Democrat must attract Democratic, Republican, Independent and other voters, since registration is almost equal. There is generally a major crossover vote in every election and voters do not hesitate to split their votes, depending on who is running.

As a result, many candidates ask for the Democratic Party’s endorsement, but do not make an issue of their party affiliation for fear of turning off any potential voters.

Our policy is not to endorse anyone who doesn’t seek our endorsement, and not to make an endorsement at all if two active Democrats or more are running against each other, as in this election. In that event, we simply work to get the vote out.

As for the “exclusionary” nature of the Wednesday forum: for several years the Democratic Party has been pleased to be able to co-sponsor in the election forums we organize with the Republican Party.

First, GrassRoots will broadcast it (they do not broadcast partisan events). Second, the chair of the Republican Party and I are trying hard to introduce a bit of bipartisan civility into the election process, not because we agree on the issues, but precisely because we generally disagree vociferously on most public policy issues.

We do these election forums as a community service to get voters interested and keep them informed. We invite every declared candidate. The forums are time consuming and usually quite expensive (room, sound equipment, refreshments, GrassRoots’ costs). Frankly, we enjoy the process, even though we complain.

Camilla Auger


Pitkin County Democratic Party

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