09 March 2006

A Quiet Denver Democratic Primary Season

The process of nominating candidates for the November 2006 general election in Colorado begins on March 21, 2006 and ends in August when primary elections are held. In Denver, there isn't much action in the cards.

Non-Partisan Races, Local Races and Ballot Issues

While Denver voters will consider about 25 different judicial retention elections, these "retain or do not retain" votes are non-partisan, don't involve contesting candidates, and almost always result in favor of retaining the judge (99%+ of the time) absent some extraordinary scandal which hasn't surfaced yet.

Denver voters will also consider several candidates for the RTD Board of Directors in the general election, but these seats are non-partisan, and so are not involved in the caucus/primary process.

Unlike every other county in the state (except the City and County of Broomfield), Denver's local elections are non-partisan and out of synch with the state electoral process. They won't be held until 2007. The only partisan quasi-local office in Denver is the District Attorney's office, and those elections are held in Presidential election years.

A special election in Denver is on tap for May of 2006, to vote on Xcel Energy's utility franchise and possibly one or more other ballot issues, but it doesn't appear that there will be any ballot issues on the August 2006 primary ballot. It isn't clear yet whether this will be a mail in ballot, or an in person election.

Statewide ballot issues should face voters in November, not May or August.

Partisan State Offices

There are nine House Districts which are, at least partially, in Denver (House Districts 1-9). There are also five State Senate Districts (Senate Districts 31-35) that include some Denver territory, of which just two, Senate Districts 32 and 34 are in the half of State Senate seats in which there will be elections in 2006. Of the 11 state general assembly posts which will have elections in 2006, 10 of them have incumbents who are not term limited and are unlikely to face Democratic caucus or primary opposition.

Only Democrat Fran Coleman's House District 1 in Southwest Denver will be an open seat, as she is term limited. A contested primary fight may be brewing there. Alfredo Hernandez is one Democratic candidate in HD 1, and Margaret Atencio, the second vice chair of the state Democratic Party, is also rumored to be interested in the seat.

Ken Gordon's run for Secretary of State could create an open state senate seat in Southeast Denver (Senate District 35), if he wins. But, that would likely happen after the 2006 general election is over. Alice Borodkin, whose 9th House District overlaps with Senate District 35, is one likely candidate if that happens, which would, in turn open up another vacancy spot to be filled if she was selected. Neither Andrew Romanoff nor Anne McGihon, whose districts are near Ken Gordon's, live in Senate District 35.

The only contested general assembly primary race for Democrats that I'm sure is coming up in the state is for House District 35 (the seat currently held by term limited Ann Ragsdale in Adams County), which has both Butch Hicks and Cherilyn Peniston in the running. HD 35 is also in the 7th Congressional District, so caucuses in House District 35 are likely to be particularly full.

The State Board of Education, and the University of Colorado Regents both have staggered elections, with both at large seats and seats that have boundaries identical to Congressional Districts. Denver's districts on both of these bodies are held in Presidential election years, so they won't be at issue in 2006.

At the state level, there is no serious competition for the Democratic nominations for Governor (which is elected together with a Lt. Governor on the same ticket), Attorney General (although one candidate besides Fran O'Brien has filed paperwork, but has not begun an active campaign), for Treasurer, or for Secretary of State. Each of these offices has one dominant candidate who has won a near consensus within the party running, so a primary election for any of these posts is unlikely.

There is an open CU Regent At-Large race this year, and there is, at least, one Democratic who has announced for the race, but I don't know whether this will be a contested race within the Democratic party or not. If there is, I haven't heard about it yet.

I would be surprised if any of these five state races make it to a Democratic primary ballot in August this year. The petition threshold for a candidate running for statewide office in Colorado is high for members of major political parties (1500 signatures in each Congressional District in the state from party members, for a total of 10,500 signatures are required), so it is unlikely to be used this year by anyone in either party.

Federal Elected Offices

Only one of the seven Congressional Districts has more than one Democrat who is seriously contesting the seat. But, Denver isn't part of the 7th Congressional District where this is happening, and so, we won't have a say in either the caucus process or the primary (if there is one) for that seat. There is no U.S. Senate or Presidential race in Colorado this year.

In the 7th District, Democratic party candidates need at least 30% of the vote obtained through the caucus process (delegates for the next step in that process will be selected on March 21, 2006 and the vote itself will be held later) to get on the primary ballot, or they may petition onto the ballot if they get 1000 signatures and either don't participate at all in the caucus process, or get 10% to 30% of the vote through the caucus process.

Realistically, Herb Rubenstein will be hard pressed to survive the caucus process if he chooses to participate (and could act as a spoiler for Peggy Lamm if he does, hurting her chances) and although he probably has even odds of getting on the primary ballot by petition if he opts out of the caucus process. Peggy Lamm is likely to either get on the primary ballot in that process, or at least get the 10% support she needs to get on the ballot by petition, which shouldn't be much of an obstacle for her). Ed Perlmutter is almost certain to get at least the 30% support in the caucus process that he needs to get on a primary ballot, and quite frankly would probably think twice about continuing a run if he didn't get that kind of support in the caucus process, even though he could probably easily get at least 10% support in the caucuse process and 1000 signatures if he chose to do so.

Intra-Party Affairs

The Democratic party state party central committee is composed of elected officials who serve ex-officio, county party members who serve ex officio, and representatives elected by county party organizations. State party officers, in turn, are elected by the central committee (in odd numbered years) and serve ex officio on the central committee. The state central committee also sets the party's rules.

Democratic party county organizations are composed of elected officials who serve ex-officio, precinct officers and house district officers (who were selected by precincit committee persons and/or county officers as the case may be) who serve ex officio. The county committee, in turn elects officers (in odd numbered years) who serve ex officio on the county committee of the party.

Democratic party offices associated with elective offices flow directly or indirected from precinct committee members. The primary function of these bodies is to choose vacancy committees to replace elected officials between elections.

Thus, while the election of precinct officers at the March 21, 2006 caucuses impacts the Democratic party's organizational affairs, all other Democratic party offices are filled outside the caucus process.

Resolutions do flow up through the process from caucus to county assembly to the state assembly for biannual adjustments to the state party's platform, with debate on the floor, except to adopt or reject platform proposals are limited to matters rejected by the platform committee selected as part of the caucus process, but backed by at least 10% of that committee in a minority report. Usually, almost all party platform proposals are rubber stamped and promptly ignored for another two years.

Precinct caucuses also choose delegates to go to county assemblies. In Denver this year, these county assemblies in turn send partform matters and delegates to the state assembly, which in turn decide who gets on the primary ballot for state offices, which, this year, won't be a very big deal. The other thing delegates to the county assembly do is have a say in the nomination process for state representative seats, which again, is unlikely to be a big deal outside of a couple of house districts in Denver, at most.

(Democratic National Committee members and Presidential electors are selected at a State Convention, parallel to and contemporaneous with the State Assembly, in Presidential election years).


In short, there is a very good chance that there will not be a single contested candidate race or ballot issue on the August primary ballot for Democrats in 2006 in Denver. And, with the possible exception of House District 1 and perhaps one other seat yet to be determined, it seems unlikely that any serious contests will arise in the caucus process in Denver at all. Since I don't live in House District 1, or in a District with a representative who lives in Ken Gordon's State Senate District, in all probability, my August primary ballot won't involve any choices at all, and I am likely, as a result, for the first time in ages, to skip that election all together.

Out of duty, I will attend my March 21, 2006 caucus, but I'll forgive my fellow precinct residents if turnout is light, as their main job will be to select precinct committee people whose main role is to provide the base level of an elaborate, but not very powerful, party machine whose main authority is to fill vacancies that arise from time to time, until the next election.

Meanwhile, all eyes in the Democratic party will be directed at caucus action in the 7th CD, in the handful of state legislative districts where there could possibly be contests, and at the much more exciting Republican caucus process which will impact all sorts of hot races this year.

1 comment:

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Jennifer Mello is a candidate in SD 32, so obviously, I'm out of the loop on that one.