State Dems hope to weigh in

Presidential candidate may be decided before April 13 caucus

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The director of the state's Democratic party hopes there still will be a decision to make on a presidential nominee when Colorado holds its caucuses April 13.

The presidential primary season got started Monday with the Iowa caucus. Between now and April 13, 39 states will hold caucuses or primaries, including the big four -- California, New York, Texas and Florida.

A candidate needs 2,200 delegates to secure the Democratic nomination, and more than 2,500 of the 3,500 delegates will have been decided before Coloradans get into the fray.

But given the wide-open nature of the 2004 race for the Democratic party's nomination, Julie DeWoody, interim executive director of the Colorado Democratic Party, hopes the state's caucuses will be meaningful.

"Unfortunately, it won't matter as much as Iowa's," DeWoody said. "It just depends on what happens in the other states. Hopefully, there will be at least a couple of candidates still competing. That would make it really interesting."

On April 13, the Democratic and Republican parties will hold caucuses at the voting precinct level in what is the first step in Colorado's nominating process for election candidates. Voters must be registered with a party by Feb. 13 to participate in the caucuses. Those who are not already affiliated with a party may register at the Routt County Clerk's Office.

County assemblies, congressional district meetings and the state convention will be held after the precinct caucuses.

Colorado's delegates for the Democratic presidential nomination won't be assigned officially until the party's state convention May 21 in Pueblo. But votes for president will be taken at each caucus meeting and reported to the state party that night, DeWoody said. Those results should give an accurate indication of how Colorado's 64 delegates -- 53 pledged and 11 unpledged -- will be assigned.

DeWoody said a presidential candidate must earn at least 15 percent of the vote to acquire delegates at each level of the caucus system.

Routt County Democratic Party Chairman Ken Brenner said the party has not decided where its caucuses will be held, though that will be discussed at a meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Routt County Courthouse. Brenner said that in the past, the party has held its caucuses at one site, with those participating breaking into precinct level groups to make decisions.

"It seemed to work pretty well in the past, and it may be the most convenient way to do it," Brenner said. "But I am willing to listen and follow what everybody wants to do."

The local party must wait 10 days after the caucus before holding its county assembly, DeWoody said.

Colorado will hold party primaries Aug. 10, but presidential candidates will not be on the ballots. The national conventions are in July, and both parties already will have settled on presidential nominees.

All other primary candidates will be decided by the caucus system. Democrats are expected to have contested primary races to elect a nominee to take on Ben Nighthorse Campbell for U.S. Senate and to elect a candidate in Congressional District 3. Republicans also are expected to have a contested primary race for Congressional District 3. County Commissioner Doug Monger, State Rep. Al White and State Sen. Jack Taylor are up for election during this cycle.

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