Caucuses slated for February 5
If Crested Butte has anything to do with what has been called the world’s most powerful position, presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama is going to take it in a walk. In a Crested Butte News poll conducted at the Crested Butte Post Office on January 7, citizens weighed in for Obama over his nearest competitors by more than two to one.
Maybe it’s just a temporary bump—simply leftover excitement from Obama’s audacious surge in the Iowa caucuses, but Crested Butte residents seem energized by the senator from Illinois.
Crested Butte resident Larry Tanning says that until the Iowa caucus, no candidate particularly stood out. “I think the candidates were lackluster and uninspiring until last week,” he says.
But Tanning says the crucial first round of vote-casting shows that Obama has what it takes to invigorate traditionally non-participating citizens—especially younger voters. That, according to Tanning, will give Obama the edge over the rest of the field. “He’s blowing them away by energizing the youth,” he says.
As could be expected in the blue enclave of Crested Butte, the poll suggested Democrats are likely to perform far better than Republicans. And although they trailed Obama significantly, Democrat presidential candidates Senator Hillary Clinton and former Senator John Edwards garnered more support than the nearest Republican—who turned out to be the libertarian-leaning candidate Texas Congressman Ron Paul.
Longtime local resident Ben Somrak says he likes Paul because he won’t stray far from the Constitution, is unlikely to meddle abroad and is willing to say what he believes. “He says things that won’t get him elected but are honest,” says Somrak. “He won’t get us involved in civil wars,” he adds, alluding to Iraq.
Despite the nods toward Paul, Republicans may be headed for a poor November performance locally—even by Crested Butte standards. Life-long Republican Nancy Hyde says she’ll be breaking ranks this time around. “The Republicans are too much of the hang ‘em high party,” she says.
The gulf between the two parties is smaller farther down the valley—a second poll conducted in Gunnison showed Republicans running significantly closer to Democrats. While Obama leads among Democrats down valley, Republican John McCain garnered just as many votes on the Republican side.
Defining the more right-leaning down-valley voters, Almont Democrat George McArthur says his party has veered too far left. As a result, he intends to vote Republican this year. He has yet to decide which candidate he will support, but he likes Colorado’s former presidential candidate Tom Tancredo’s stance on illegal immigration. Tancredo had built his campaign around tightening the U.S./Mexican border. According to McArthur, Tancredo’s message still resonates. “Immigration is probably the biggest issue,” he says.
Mirroring the emerging national phenomenon of younger voters identifying with Obama, two Western State College students, Megan Elfin and Jessica Duran, say they support the first black man with a viable shot at the White House. “I like Obama mostly because he’s addressing domestic issues,” says Duran. “I think they’ve been overlooked lately,” she adds.
Elfin says she saw Obama on the Oprah Winfrey Show, and was inspired to read his book, Audacity of Hope. “I like his plan of getting us less dependent on foreign oil,” she says. Elfin adds that after two terms of a Republican president, it’s time for the pendulum to swing back.
Approximately 50 percent of the people polled said they were still undecided. Of those, nearly half say they will support a Democrat, while the majority of the others say that either party may ultimately garner their vote.
Gunnison Republican Party chairman Rebecca Rose says it’s still early in the process and too soon to take the Iowa caucus for gospel. “This thing could turn on a dime,” she says.
Rose says there are several strong Republican candidates and she urges party members to become engaged in time for Colorado’s February 5 caucus. “People should do their homework,” she says.
The New Hampshire primary had a slightly different outcome with Clinton taking the Democratic vote and McCain winning the Republican nod.
Like Iowa, Colorado will decide its primaries by caucus, a process in which party-affiliated voters divided by precinct will come together to choose delegates to represent their preferred candidates. However, unlike Iowa, Colorado registered voters must have been affiliated with their party since December 5 (Iowa voters can choose party affiliation until the day of the caucus).
According to Gunnison Democratic Party chairman Frank Venturo such a rule may stifle participation but also deters the possibility of manipulation of the caucus by voters who may not have the best interest of the party in mind. New residents and those just turning 18 may participate in the caucuses as long as they registered as an affiliated voter by January 7.
Venturo says precinct delegates will go on to represent their chosen candidates at the state level and ultimately the national convention, to be held in Denver this summer for Democrats and in Minneapolis for Republicans.
In order for a candidate to receive a delegate, he or she must receive at least 15 percent of votes cast at a straw poll conducted by each precinct during the caucus. According to Venturo, the total number of state-allocated delegates is determined by population. “We’ll have a proportional amount of delegates based on our electoral votes,” he says.
Venturo says he’s heartened by the unprecedented turnout of Democrats for the Iowa caucuses. “A lot of young people are energized,” he says. “I’m hoping for a big turnout for our caucuses.”
The Gunnison County Democratic Caucuses will be held February 5 at 7 p.m.
—Precincts 1 and 2 will meet at 105 West Main St. in Marble.
—Precincts 3, 4 and 5 (Crested Butte, Mt. Crested Butte, Crested Butte South) will meet in Crested Butte Town Hall, 507 Maroon Avenue in Crested Butte.
—Precincts 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14 and 15 will meet in Fred Field Western Heritage Center, 275 South Spruce in Gunnison.
—Precinct 11 will meet in the Pitkin Hotel, 329 Main Street, in Pitkin.
The Gunnison County Republican caucus for all precincts will be on February 5 at the Fred Field Western Heritage Center in the “rubber room” at 7 p.m.
For information on which precinct to vote in, go to: http://www.sos.state.co.us/Voter/voterHome.do