Democrats hope to create ‘blue wave’ (OPED)

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Special to the Herald Times

RBC | The Democrats of Rio Blanco County are creating a “blue wave” in 2018, a common theme discussed at the Democratic assemblies for Colorado’s Third Congressional District and state this past weekend. Democrats met in Broomfield to select candidates for their primary ballots this summer. Highlights of the weekend include these early voting processes, speeches from nominated candidates and working with rural democratic initiatives.

Three individuals expressed their desire to be nominated for the Third Congressional District race:  veteran Root Rutledge, former State Representative Diane Mitsch Bush and Glenwood Springs attorney Karl Hanlon. Hanlon had a strong message about the importance of protecting our public lands. Three hundred forty-three delegates cast their votes for who would appear on the primary ballot with Rutledge receiving less than 1 percent, Hanlon with 42 percent and Mitsch Bush with 57 percent. Candidates need 30 percent of the assembly vote to make it on the ballot.

Prior to the assembly, the Colorado Democrats Rural Initiative met to share how they were creating a “blue wave” in rural areas with unaffiliated and disenfranchised Republicans. Routt County reported they have increased their Democratic numbers to rival Republicans and are excited to strategize with other rural counties to help protect public lands and garner the interests of local farmers and ranchers. Cary Kennedy, a gubernatorial candidate, stressed the importance of helping rural public schools receive adequate funding.

The state assembly highlighted speeches from many candidates, but also issues important to young Coloradans like school shootings. Between candidate speeches, Tay Anderson, a community leader who helped organize 130,000 people in Denver’s March for Our Lives, fired up the crowd quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. near the anniversary of his assassination, “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Anderson’s impassioned speech left the audience cheering when he left the podium saying, “Wakanda Forever.” Later, Allie Holton 16, addressed the assembly about her constant fear that a fire alarm is no longer a fire alarm, that it could signal the last time she or her friends would be alive. The young, pre-registered Democrat from Fort Collins spoke about her success in mobilizing students from more than 15 schools in northern Colorado for a walkout. Standing with confidence at the podium, Holton said, “I am not old enough to vote, but I am old enough to ask for your vote.”

The state assembly included nominations for CU Regent-at-Large, State Treasurer, Secretary of State, State Attorney General and Governor. Candidates included men and women, people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Candidates made commitments to social justice, not taking “dark money” from special interest groups for their campaigns, and better funding for Colorado schools, which is one of the lowest funded school systems in the nation.

Lesley Smith is running unopposed for CU Regent on the primary ballot this summer after Chantell Taylor withdrew her intent. Current State Representative Dave Young, Colorado’s Chief Financial Officer Charles Quinn Scheibe and business owner Bernard Douthit were running for state treasurer. Young won 52 percent of the delegate vote, Douthit won 32 percent and Scheibe won 16 percent. Two candidates were nominated for Secretary of State: Phillip Villard and Jena Griswold, a lawyer and small business owner. Griswold was nominated by State Representative Leslie Herod, the first African-American LGBTQ+ candidate to be elected to the state legislature. Griswold will run unopposed on the primary ballot after winning 98 percent of the vote.

The Attorney General candidates  were state and federal prosecutor Amy Padden, civil rights attorney and State Representative Joe Salazar, and former Dean of CU’s law school, Phil Weiser. Weiser earned 53 percent of the vote, with Salazar at 37 percent and Padden with 10 percent. Salazar and Weiser will be on this summer’s primary ballot.

Last at the assembly were speeches from three different candidates for governor: former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy, Congressman Jared Polis and Erik Underwood, a former U.S. Senate staffer. Kennedy stressed a commitment to education and the environment. Polis focused on Dreamers and DACA. Underwood focused on rural affairs. Kennedy won 62 percent of the vote, Polis 33 percent and Underwood five. Kennedy, Polis and former State Senator Mike Johnston will be on the primary ballot. Johnston didn’t use the assembly process, but has petitioned onto the ballot. Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne may qualify with her petitions that have not yet been verified by the Secretary of State.

Four Rio Blanco County delegates attended: Nicholas and Carrie Swails of Rangely and Debbie and Mike Frazier of Meeker.