Monday, March 20, 2006

March 16, 2006

For more contact:
Phil Perington (D), (303)832-4578
John Wren (R), (720)495-4949


Monday, March 20 at noon a rally in support of the Colorado neighborhood caucus-assembly system for nominating to the primary ballot will be held on the west steps of the Colorado Capitol.
It is being co-hosted by Colorado Speaker of the House Rep. Andrew Romanoff and Senate Minority Leader Sen. Tom Wiens. Speakers will include Colorado State Chairs Bob Martinez (R) and Pat Waak (D).

The rally is being organized by an informal, non-partisan citizens committee that is mostly comprised of people from Save the Caucus, a group that was formed in 2002 to defeat Amendment 29 which would have killed the caucus. It is being sponsored by the Denver South Optimist club, who is also inviting other Optimist Clubs from around the state.

At the rally an announcement will be made about the release of a TV public service announcement with Mayor John Hickenlooper and Gov. Bill Owens encouraging people to attend their neighborhood caucus. The PSA will be available on the Google Video Store. Supporters of the caucus are being encouraged to email a link to the spot to their email list and to local media outlets across the state encouraging them to play it.

It will also be announced that the Colorado penguin is being adopted as the official mascot of the Colorado neighborhood caucus. Money will be raised for yard signs and an ad campaign to raise awareness of the 2008 caucus.

The Colorado neighborhood caucus is held every two years and was recently ratified by legislation in which several of the recommendations of the Colorado Caucus Committee were adopted, including a change in the date. The state is divided into over 3,000 neighborhoods where meetings are held to discuss issues and elect delegates to nominating assemblies. The system was established in 1912 as part of the Teddy Roosevelt progressive reforms that dramatically strengthened the voice of the common person in deciding who should represent them in local, state, and national offices.

Rocky Mountain News

Time for precinct caucuses
Registered members of parties set to turn out to pick candidates
By Kevin Vaughan, Rocky Mountain NewsMarch 20, 2006
On Tuesday, thousands of voters across Colorado will gather in small, neighborhood political meetings that are nearly as old as the republic itself.
But these are not your father's - or mother's - precinct caucuses.
Once common in living rooms, caucuses, the first step in the political process that will eventually land candidates on the November ballot, are now almost always held in public buildings to comply with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
And while Republicans and Democrats may not agree on anything in this polarized day and age, the heads of the two state parties are unified on one front: They like the caucus process and want it to stay.
"Remember," said Pat Waak, chairwoman of the Colorado Democratic Party, "those folks who've gone through the system are those folks who've committed themselves to the political process and those folks are the volunteers who are going to go out and help us elect people.
"It's a sure way to make sure that we've got leaders at the grass-roots level."
Her Republican counterpart, Bob Martinez, echoed that sentiment.
"I believe strongly in it, because it keeps the individual involved in the political process," Martinez said.
So how does the precinct caucus work?
It's pretty simple, really. Small groups of people from each neighborhood gather Tuesday evening to pick delegates who will move on to the county and state assemblies or congressional district assemblies. Candidates must win the support of 30 percent of the delegates at an assembly to move on.
Those who survive appear on the primary ballot in August, when voters in each party will pick their candidates for the November general election.
Colorado is one of only a few states that still practices the traditional caucus system - and, in reality, a candidate doesn't have to use it.
Peggy Lamm, for example, has already announced that she'll skip the caucus process and try to get on the ballot for Congress in the 7th District by petition.
But for most other candidates, the trick is to get supporters to go to the caucuses - and, in turn, to get them elected delegates to the various assemblies.
"What we have now is a disconnect between the people and their representatives, and the caucus is a way to heal that disconnect," said John Wren, a volunteer consultant to Colorado Caucus Community of Practice, a group trying to revive the system in the state.
Wren's group and the two state parties are planning a rally on the west steps of the Capitol at noon today.
So, is the caucus system a dinosaur or just what ails a fractured electoral system?
It is an old system, and people don't go to the gatherings as much as they once did.
But Wren, and the state parties, believe it's also an essential salve for representative government.
"I think what's happened over time is it's eroded - it's kind of almost an endangered species," Wren said.
The reason, in his view, is that there are "powerful forces that don't want to mess with the grass roots."
"They want to pay people to pass petitions and run ads, and that's not really representative government," he said.
Colorado's caucus system faced an outright attack in 2002, when a ballot initiate would have ended it.
Voters killed the measure.
"Caucuses are under assault," said Phil Perington, former chair of the state Democratic Party. "The caucuses are probably the last bastion of grass-roots politics in this country."
Caucus info
Log on to the following Web sites for more information on 2006 caucus locations in your neighborhood and upcoming assemblies:
• For Democrats:
• For Republicans:
or 303-892-5019
Copyright 2006, Rocky Mountain News. All Rights Reserved.