Steamboat Springs A tense political landscape sure to heat up as November approaches attracted more than 300 registered Routt County Democrats and Republicans to Tuesday night’s party caucuses. Save for one race, the straw poll preferences of local caucus-goers largely reflected the will of their peers across the state.
According to results filed with the Colorado Democratic Party, 177 registered Routt County Democrats voted in Tuesday night’s caucuses. In the highest-profile contested race in their party, local Democrats showed a preference for U.S. Senate candidate and former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff over incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet, 54 percent to 31 percent. Nearly 15 percent of local Democrats were undecided between the two.
Those results somewhat mirrored the preference of Democrats across the state, where Romanoff was chosen over Bennet by 51 percent of caucus participants. Bennet received 42 percent of the statewide votes, with a little more than 7 percent of caucus-goers undecided.
Catherine Carson, chairwoman of the Routt County Democratic Party, said she was pleased with Tuesday night’s turnout, which was significantly smaller than caucus turnout in 2008, a presidential year.
“The energy at Soda Creek Elementary School was wonderful,” Carson said, referring to the gathering place for Democratic caucus participants from voting precincts 3, 4, 6, 7 and 11 to 18.
“I think the Democrats are very positive and very much focused on the accomplishments and the challenges going forward,” she said, citing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Play Act, President Barack Obama’s executive order expanding stem cell research, the economic stimulus bill of 2009 and the possibility of expansive health care reform.
Carson said she wasn’t surprised by Romanoff’s strong showing locally and statewide.
“He’s been a real strong advocate of the Western Slope,” she said. He’s also traveled to Steamboat Springs on numerous occasions in the past couple of years, including giving a graduation speech at Steamboat Springs High School in May 2008.
Because Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper thus far has no Democratic opposition to his bid for governor, there was no straw poll vote Tuesday for the gubernatorial race.
Local Republicans strongly favored gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis over his GOP competition, with 80 percent of the Routt County vote going to the former U.S. representative from Grand Junction. Dan Maes, an Evergreen businessman, received 19 percent of the 161 local votes cast in that preference poll.
Statewide, McInnis received 60 percent of the vote to Maes 39 percent.
In the race for the U.S. Senate seat Bennet holds, former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton received about 48 percent of the Routt County votes, followed by Tom Wiens (18 percent), Ken Buck (17 percent) and Cleve Tidwell (11 percent). The remainder of the county’s 149 straw poll votes went to Steve Barton (1 percent) and Vincent Martinez (1 percent). Other, unidentified candidates received a little more than 2 percent of the vote.
The local vote was in contrast to the statewide result, in which Buck, a northern Colorado prosecutor, narrowly edged Norton, receiving 37.9 percent of the votes compared with 37.7 percent for Norton. Wiens received 16 percent of the vote from GOP members across the state.
Routt County Republican Central Committee Chairman Jack Taylor, the former state senator from Steamboat Springs, attributed Norton’s strong local showing to her previous appearances in Routt County, as well as her advertising advantage against her competition.
Taylor said he had hoped for better turnout Tuesday night but wasn’t surprised given the lack of a presidential race this fall. Still, he said there are enough major issues to be dealt with that voters should be participating in the democratic process.
“There are so many things going on right now that are critical, no matter which side you’re on,” Taylor said.
Routt County Republicans did not take a straw poll preference vote on their candidates for the massive 3rd Congressional District. That race features Steamboat Springs candidate Bob McConnell against state Rep. Scott Tipton.
The next step in the political process for both parties is the April 10 county assemblies, when local delegates will be selected for state conventions. Republicans also will conduct a preference poll at the county assembly for the lone local contested race, where David Smith Jr. and Garrett Wiggins are vying for Routt County sheriff. Provided that each gets 30 percent of the vote, both will appear on the Aug. 10 primary ballot. The candidate who receives the most votes at the county assembly will have his name at the top of the primary ballot.
The Democrats’ Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner is March 27. Carson said U.S. Rep. John Salazar would be the keynote speaker.