Political angst over proposed changes to a land-use code brought out new faces to the caucuses held Tuesday across La Plata County.
La Plata County Republicans saw much better turnout than expected because of the recent concern over the county’s draft of updated land-use codes, although an official count was not available Wednesday, spokesman Colton Black said.
“They felt like they needed to get more involved,” he said of party members.
Democrats also saw more participation than on an average midterm year, said Ken Francis, an executive committee member. But it was far below last year.
Only 25 Democrats gathered at Precinct 30 at Fort Lewis College, down from 200 residents in 2016 – a presidential election year, said Party Chairwoman Jean Walter.
“I was disappointed,” she said.
The party had not tallied total attendance as of Wednesday, she said.
Kate Niles was among Democrats who caucused at Needham Elementary School, saying she believes in the democratic process.
“It’s a great way to have an actual conversation,” she said. She finds political conversation on social media polarizing.
It’s possible fewer people attended the caucuses because the party didn’t have a galvanizing candidate, like Sen. Bernie Sanders, who ran for president in 2016, she said.
On Tuesday, Democrats took preference polls on about 10 gubernatorial candidates, and county results closely mirrored statewide results, Walter said.
Former Colorado state treasurer Cary Kennedy earned about 50 percent of the vote in La Plata County, and U.S. Rep. Jared Polis won 30 percent of the vote, she said.
“They both came to town. They expressed a vision and a practical way of achieving that vision,” Walter said.
The party is not finished tallying the La Plata County treasurer’s straw poll, but incumbent Allison Aichele, a Democrat, had garnered about 70 percent of the vote by Wednesday evening, Francis said.
Tim Walsworth, executive director of the Business Improvement District, is Aichele’s Democratic challenger. It is the only competitive primary in the county, so far.
Democratic precincts were encouraged to take straw polls on all races to help inform the candidates. But they are not binding. Walsworth and Aichele must receive at least 30 percent of the party’s county assembly vote on March 17 to move on to the primary. If both receive 30 percent of the vote, they will both appear on the primary ballot in June.
If a candidate receives at least 10 percent of the assembly vote, the candidate may petition to continue to the primary. If the candidate receives less than 10 percent, he or she is eliminated from the process.
La Plata County Republicans did not take straw polls on candidates, but they did advocate to change how county commissioners are elected.
At least four GOP precincts adopted statements advocating that only voters living within a particular commissioner district be allowed to vote for candidates within that district, Black said. As it is now, all eligible electors living in the county can vote for county commissioners, regardless of which district they live within.
During caucuses, Republicans can take straw polls on candidates, but the statewide party does not collect results.