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Pitkin County Caucus Meetings Mark Beginning of Political Season

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It’s a mid-term election year and the race is already underway. Tuesday night, Democrats and Republicans in Aspen and around the state held their caucuses.  The local parties gathered to assess which candidates could win primary elections later this year. Aspen Public Radio's Elise Thatcher reports on the republican caucus.

More than 70 Pitkin County Republicans gathered at Aspen High School last night. FriedaWallison is Chair of the local GOP and she says caucus turnout can vary widely depending on how important the elections are in the fall.

“I actually didn’t know what to expect. I think there’s a great deal of interest among Republicans in the elections in the fall. I would say this is probably a little low, the turnout tonight in comparison to the significance of the elections for Republicans," Wallison says.

Statewide, some of the biggest races this fall are for Governor and a U.S. Senate seat. Both require the Republican candidate to take on an incumbent and at last night’s caucus, Pitkin County GOP members took an informal vote on which candidate they think could win.

"We conducted a nonbinding straw poll, which was quite informative actually, in terms of where people, at least in the room, were leaning. In the race for the race for the Republican nomination for the US Senate, Cory Gardner was a very first place. In the Governor’s race, Mike Copp garnered the majority of the votes," says Wallison.

Pitkin County Republicans also voted on who should have certain grassroots positions within the local party. Those winners influence what the local party does and what statewide candidates can end up on the primary ballot.

Pitkin County Democrats Hold Caucus Meeting in Aspen

Last night the Pitkin County democrats gathered at Aspen’s Colorado Mountain College campus to tackle several tasks. Party chairperson Blanca O’Leary says about sixty registered voters showed up.

"We were very happy with our turnout considering we are in an off-off election year. The caucuses are the bedrock of democracy, I mean it’s the grassroots of the grassroots, so it was very good to see a very nice turnout."

Top priority at the meeting was to vote on which candidates the participants would like to see on the November ballot. The group weighed in on several races including a U.S. Senate. No surprise there - incumbent Senator Mark Udall received overwhelming support. County commissioner Rachel Richards received an endorsement, as did Patti Clapper who’s running in district one, a seat filled by Commissioner Rob Ittner. County Assessor Tom Isaac also grabbed a nomination.

The caucus voted to include issues in the state’s party platform like climate change, opposition to the Personhood Amendment and more equitable health care rates in mountain communities.

"Right now the mountain regions pay an inordinately higher amount of insurance premiums versus the Front Range and that needs to be looked at," says O'Leary.

Next, about 50 delegates will vote again at the county assembly in Aspen on March 15th. O’Leary says it’s likely the candidates who received endorsements last night will be the democrats’ choice on the November ballot.  The Republicans will hold their assembly a few days earlier, on March 12th.

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