Steamboat Springs When all of the hubbub had died down in the precinct caucuses Tuesday night, Mitt Romney was the clear winner of the Routt County Republicans’ presidential preference poll collected in caucus meetings across the county.
Romney garnered the support of 129 registered Republicans, leaving Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum to divide 171 votes almost equally among themselves. Gingrich and Santorum each won the support of 58 voters, Paul claimed 55 and there was one Republican who preferred Jon Huntsman to go against President Barack Obama in the November election. Romney’s vote total represented 42.8 percent of the total 301 cast.
The Routt County Courthouse was the scene of a super caucus where residents of Steamboat Springs Precincts 13 to 18 met in the noisy Commissioners Hearing Room. Republican Committee Chairman Chuck McConnell was careful to point out that Tuesday’s presidential preference polls are not the same as a primary election.
“This is an indication to be sent on to the state level of who Routt County Republicans prefer to run against President Obama,” McConnell said.
He registered surprise after he asked for a show of hands for who was attending the caucus for the first time. Of the 65 in attendance, an estimated majority raised their hands.
“I think there’s some enthusiasm out there for what we’re doing,” McConnell said.
Lisa Watts, who served as chief teller and helped to keep the six-precinct caucus meeting on track, said she thinks the caucus system adds strength to the American political process.
“This is exciting. What we do tonight has an impact all the way to the presidency,” Watts said. “What a lot of people don’t understand is that it begins right here with their friends and neighbors, and they can be a part of the process.”
Some of those attending a Republican caucus here for the first time stood up to speak on behalf of their preferred presidential candidate.
Nicholas Ruckman, who moved here recently from his hometown of Meeker, described Paul as the only candidate who has never flip-flopped on the issues while compiling a 30-year track record of advocating for limited government and constitutional principles.
“He’s the only candidate to predict the current economic mess long before it ever began,” Ruckman said. “He has a plan to balance the budget within his third year in office without cutting Social Security or national defense.”
Susan Gardner, who moved to Steamboat within the past year to take employment in the oil and gas industry, said she always has voted in primaries in California in the past. As a volunteer for Gingrich, she spoke passionately about his candidacy.
“It’s not enough to remove Obama, we have to put someone (in the White House) who can hit the ground running. Our country is in that much peril,” Gardner said. “We can’t nominate someone who will play D.C. games. We need someone with a bold plan to roll taxes back. Someone who is pro-life, pro-gun, pro-Constitution and someone on the side of the American people and not elite politicians. Newt Gingrich is all of the above. He is the entire package.”
No one stood to speak on behalf of Romney.
The caucus was about more than the presidential preference poll. Breaking up into their own groups of as many as 14 people and as few as two in Precinct 13 in Fairview, the Republicans selected two people to represent their precincts at Republican Committee meetings and also chose a slate of delegates to the March 25 Republican Assembly. Those delegates will play an important roll at the assembly as they vote for one of three declared candidates to replace Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak, who is stepping down from her District 1 seat.
Candidates for local office must gain the support of 30 percent of the delegates in order to be placed on the June 26 primary ballot. Those who don’t reach 30 percent but get to 15 percent have the option of petitioning their way onto the primary ballot, but time will be short.
Brita Horn, of McCoy, was the only one of the three Republican candidates to appear at the caucuses in the courthouse and introduce herself.
Party members at the caucus also suggested issues and positions they think should be included in the Republican Party platform.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com.