State Democratic Party chair candidates make case at Denver meeting

Author: Ernest Luning - February 17, 2017 - Updated: February 17, 2017

    Three of the Colorado Democratic Party's state chair candidates — Morgan Carroll, a former state Senate president and congressional candidate; Barbara Jones, the state party's incumbent 2nd vice chair; and Tim Mauck, a Clear Creek County commissioner — address Denver Democrats at the county party's reorganization meeting on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017, at South High School. A fourth candidate, Telluride pioneer Scott Brown, didn't attend the Denver event. (Photos by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman)Three of the Colorado Democratic Party’s state chair candidates — Morgan Carroll, a former state Senate president and congressional candidate; Barbara Jones, the state party’s incumbent 2nd vice chair; and Tim Mauck, a Clear Creek County commissioner — address Denver Democrats at the county party’s reorganization meeting on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017, at South High School. A fourth candidate, Telluride pioneer Scott Brown, didn’t attend the Denver event. (Photos by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman)

Three of the four candidates for chair of the Colorado Democratic Party sounded the alarm and raised the roof campaigning for the post at Denver County’s reorganization meeting on Saturday.

Former Senate President Morgan Carroll, Colorado Democratic Party 2nd vice chair Barbara Jones and Clear Creek County Commissioner Tim Mauck made their pitches to the hundreds of Denver Democrats assembled at South High School, invoking Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders and rural Democrats who want practical solutions to real-world problems.

It falls to Democrats to “lead the resistance” and safeguard the country, its principles and the very fate of the free world, Carroll said, speaking rapidly and urgently in a portentous speech that didn’t mince words about what she believes is at stake.

“Like you, after we saw the results that came in this last election, we realized that everything we’ve fought for for the last 100 years is in deep jeopardy, in trouble by the day, by the week, by the month, by the year,” said Carroll, who lost a bid challenging U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman the same night as Donald Trump was elected president. “Republicans cannot get us out of this mess, unaffiliateds have no infrastructure, third parties don’t have the numbers — so, in my view, the future of our democracy, our Constitution and the free world is hinging on our local, state and national party becoming the party we need — to lead the resistance, to reach out to people who are allied to our progressive values but don’t feel a connection with the Democratic Party.”

Saying she wanted to institute a 64-county strategy — echoing the 50-state strategy adopted by former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean in the years before Barack Obama’s first presidential win — Carroll said the party needed to welcome, recruit, train and get people involved.

“We need to be a grassroots party all year, year-round, filling every seat that’s out there, and making people understand that there is a bold and purposeful vision of what we need to be doing to put our values into action,” she said. “This is not a normal election. This is an unusual time.”

Jones, serving her second two-year term as 2nd vice chair of the state party, said she’s been sounding the alarm about the importance of cultivating the party’s grassroots since long before the last election.

“I am a grassroots Democrat,” she said, “and I have spoken about grassroots way before Donald Trump was elected. I realized that our party was disenfranchised and that we need a different approach, we need a grassroots approach.”

Jones said it would be her mission as state chair to welcome disenfranchised and forgotten voters into the party.

“If elected, I will divert a lot of monies at the state level down to the county levels, so they can decide how they want to do outreach, how they can include their grassroots level, and how we can be prepared to elect (officials) in 2018, because in 2020 we will have redistricting, and we don’t want the Democratic Party to say, ‘We are at this place — again,’” she said with a mock frown. “We have to change our strategy, we have to be inclusive.”

Citing Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Jones contended that the official unemployment rate, for instance, doesn’t reflect a much higher unemployment rate among African Americans. “We need to start telling the truth on the podium because people down there, people at the grassroots, they know what’s going on.”

Noting that he grew up in Denver — he’s a graduate of Manual High School — before moving to Idaho Springs, Mauck said he understands that Democrats come in different varieties, including rural voters who aren’t going to respond to progressive rhetoric the same as metro voters might. “In many respects, they mimic the unaffiliateds we need to reach out to,” he said.

“I didn’t realize the nuances, or appreciate the nuances between Democrats until I moved from an urban area to a rural community,” Mauck said. “The reality is the progressive values that we all share apply to everybody. We’ve got to deliver them. We’ve got to keep progressive values, Democratic governing principles pouring from the Denver metro area, growing in our own rural communities. We keep our statehouse majorities because we are able to pick up in rural and suburban areas.”

He said he was particularly suited to reaching the range of voters Democrats need to motivate.

“I’ve lived in both lives. At the end of the day, my voters in Clear Creek County are just like any other voters,” he said, although his next point sounded like they were different in some respects. “They’re not interested any longer in the political rhetoric. They want to know when we’re building that clinic, when we’re going to get the bus service and when we are building affordable housing in our communities.”

Thanking the Democrats for devoting their Saturday afternoon to party business, Mauck concluded: “I want to unite our party, I want to expand our message beyond and into the unaffiliated populations.”

The fourth announced candidate for statewide chair, Scott Brown, one of the leaders of the rebirth of Telluride starting in the early 1970s — and a founder of the town’s world-famous bluegrass and film festivals — describes himself as a “deal guy.” He’s currently an affordable housing consultant and developer and is chairman of Spaceport Enterprises.

State party chairman Rick Palacio late last year declined to seek a fourth two-year term. He is, however, campaigning for a vice chair position with the Democratic National Committee, which will be decided Feb. 25 at the DNC’s winter meeting in Atlanta.

Colorado Democrats are meeting at county reorganizations through February to elect officers and bonus members to the state central committee, which also includes elected officials. That body meets on Saturday, March 11, at the Denver Marriott City Center for the biennial statewide reorganization. The state party holds its 84th Annual Dinner that night at the same location.

The party is also electing a 1st vice chair — by the rules, if a woman is elected chair, that office must be held by a man, and vice versa —a 2nd vice chair, a secretary and a treasurer.

Denver-based consultant David Sabados and Larimer County organizer Gil Barela are the only announced candidates for 1st vice chair. The candidates for 2nd vice chair are former Otero County Chairman Terrance Hestand, former Democratic National Committeeman Mannie Rodriguez, and former Arapahoe County Chairwoman Patricia Shaver.

The state party’s incumbent secretary, Martelle Daniels, a former chair of the Mesa County Democrats, is seeking a second term unopposed. Rita Simas and Kathleen Ricker are the two announced candidate for treasurer.

Republicans are conducting their county reorganizational meetings this month, too, and have scheduled their state central committee meeting for Saturday, April 1, at Englewood High School.

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. For nearly a decade, he was a senior political reporter and occasional editor at The Colorado Statesman before the 119-year-old publication merged with Colorado Politics in 2017.