Republicans and Democrats voiced their political passions and weighed in on numerous issues at caucuses Tuesday evening across La Plata County.
The focus of the neighborhood-level meetings was on electing delegates to attend county assemblies, the crowded governor’s race and adopting resolutions.
Resolutions to boost school security, to require district voting for county commissions and to limit the power of the federal government all cleared Republican Party precinct caucuses.
In Precinct 32, 14 attendees at Florida Mesa Elementary School agreed to introduce a resolution that would allow properly trained teachers and staff members to obtain a concealed-carry permit to be armed at school.
Sean O’Kane said the state should allow properly trained teachers and staff members to obtain concealed-carry permits.
“I would like to see a statistic out there that 100 percent of the staff has a concealed-carry permit. I don’t even care if they carry a firearm. Just a stat out there that would deter some nutjob who would realize that that school is armed pretty good,” O’Kane said.
Democrats polled their members on the 10 Democrats running for governor to report the results to the state party. The poll results will guide how delegates vote in the governor’s race later in the process, but they are not binding. Candidates can also petition their way onto primary ballots.
At the Unitarian Universalist Church, about 30 Democrats from Precinct 5 gathered and backed gubernatorial candidates Jared Polis and Cary Kennedy.
Debbie Kurz supported Kennedy because Kennedy is more moderate than Polis, and she believes Kennedy will have a better chance in the General Election.
The Colorado Democratic Party did not expect to release results from the poll Tuesday night, according to a news release.
Republicans had the option to take straw polls on races, but the results don’t determine which candidates will receive delegates.
At Precinct 5, Democrats advocated through resolutions for the party to back universal health care, address climate change, protect public lands, enact “common-sense” gun regulations, expunge nonviolent marijuana convictions and protect undocumented immigrants, among other issues.
At the Needham Elementary School caucus, Doug Fults said he plans to advocate for lowering the voting age to 16 and the age requirements to run for state office to encourage participation among young adults.
GOP members were expected to introduce resolutions advocating for a change in how county commissioners are elected, Colton Black, vice chairman of the La Plata County Republican Party, previously told The Durango Herald.
Precincts 32, 22 and 18 adopted resolutions that would require voting for the state’s county commissions to be done by district rather than the current procedure of at-large voting for all county commission districts.
Jim Burridge, who lives near the Durango-La Plata County Airport, said, “I feel that we in the rural part of the county have our commissioner determined by people in Durango. I feel that’s unfair.”
The position proved popular, passing all three precincts for eventual debate at the County Assembly.
Wendy Rice, the sole dissenter to the resolution, said county residents constitute two-thirds of the population of La Plata County, and the problem isn’t that rural residents are swamped by greater numbers of more liberal Durango residents. Rather, the problem is too few county residents register to vote and cast ballots.
“The problem is the number of people taking the responsibility to vote,” she said.
She added, “If we vote by district, we don’t get to vote in two districts where we have problems.”
Kani Cassens attended the Republican caucus for the first time. As the only representative for her precinct, she planned to attend the County Assembly.
She was concerned by the first draft of the county land-use code rewrite, which demonstrated to her the importance of participating in government.
“If we don’t show up, people will just tell us what our rights are,” Cassens said.
She was one of about 10 people who caucused at the Frontier Baptist Church, where four Republican precincts met.
Two of those precincts didn’t have any representation.
“How many of you have ever planted grass? Sometimes, it doesn’t grow,” Jasper Welch joked about grass-roots participation.
County Treasurer Allison Aichele and her staff were out at the caucuses talking about the culture of the office and change she has brought about, including bringing accounting in-house and abiding by all relevant state statutes.
“I love the job. I’m passionate about it,” she said.
She is running against Democrat Tim Walsworth, executive director of the Durango Business Improvement District, who has also drawn support. Fellow Democrat Kurz planned to back Walsworth in the primary because of his ability to successfully collaborate with others.
The treasurer’s race is the only contested county race in the primary.