COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., April 10, 2016—The Colorado Republican Party held its State Assembly in Colorado Springs Saturday, and Ted Cruz was the big winner. Although the presidential race dominated the interest, there were other important state races–and some surprises.
The nominating process in Colorado is a hybrid caucus-primary system. Precinct caucuses were held on Super Tuesday, March 1st. Rules forced through at the 2012 National Convention made the State Central Committee decide not to hold a presidential straw poll, but informal polls taken pointed to Cruz and Rubio as the top two choices among those attending the caucuses.
Anyone getting at least 30% of the delegate votes is put on the June 18th Republican primary; others my petition on to the ballot by collecting the appropriate number of signatures.
Delegates are officially unpledged but by party rules, they may pledge if they choose to. If they pledge, they are bound to vote for that candidate on the first round only. The in-state Cruz organizers, led by U.S. Rep. Ken Buck (CO-4), assembled slates of candidates who pledged to vote Cruz no matter how may ballots there may be.
Friday, assemblies were held for each of Colorado’s seven congressional districts. Three national delegates and three alternates were elected at each for a total of 21 delegates and alternates. Pledged Cruz candidates won all 21 primary spots.
On Saturday, 13 delegates and alternates were at stake. There were a whopping 618 people who had filed to become a delegate, giving each one a 2% chance. The state-wide official Cruz slate had 16 names out of a potential 26 delegates and alternates.
In the end, the Cruz slate won the top 16 slots, cornering all the primary positions and 3 alternates. Another non-slate Cruz delegate came in next. To give an idea of the lopsided support for Cruz among Colorado’s Republican delegates, the bottom of Cruz’ delegates received 1825 votes; the top Trump vote-getter, political consultant Patrick Davis, got 460 votes.
Compare this year’s results to 2012: then, Colorado sent 13 pledged Romney delegates, 6 for Santorum, and 14 unpledged.
This year, unpledged didn’t cut it.
Cruz addressed the assembly a bit after noon. He was the first presidential candidate to do so in a very long time—some said since Ronald Reagan. His positive and sometimes humorous message was very well received. Since the state-wide vote had not yet been taken, he credited the 21-delegate victory at the district level to Colorado grassroots organizers:
“to each and every one of you. It goes to the dedicated Republican women. It goes to the young people. It goes to the pastors. It goes to the Libertarians. It goes to the small business owners, it goes to the farmers and ranchers and passionate activists across this state who said we will stand for liberty.”
Indeed, the assembly seemed to be a culmination to date of grassroots activity over the past seven years to move the state Republican Party forward in the direction of liberty.
The state’s 3 remaining delegates belong to the State Party Chair, Steve House, the National Committeeman and Committeewoman. Colorado Republicans thus have only 3 superdelegates, leaving the vast balance of power with the people.
George Leing, who immigrated to the U.S. from China as a child prior to Mao’s Great Cultural Revolution, was elected Committeeman. Appointed last year to fill a vacancy, he ran unopposed. Vera Ortegon, a Columbian native now become an activist from Pueblo, was elected to replace long time Committeewoman Lily Nunez in a hotly-contested four-way race.
Although party rules prohibit them from formally pledging their votes prior to the actual convention vote, it is expected that all three will support the rest of the Colorado delegation and vote Cruz.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was the race for the nomination to oppose U.S. Senator Michael Bennett. There were five contenders. State Sen. Tim Neville was the expected front runner, along with El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn. The two are almost indistinguishably conservative. Glenn gave an impassioned speech—perhaps the best of his political career—and when the votes were counted he had earned 72%, keeping everyone else off the primary ballot.
There are another four candidates who bypassed the caucus system and may petition on to the June ballot if enough signatures are verified.
Over 8,000 delegates, alternates and guests attended the convention. It was an amazing display of grassroots representative democracy in action.
CORRECTION: Although Neville could have petitioned on to the ballot in previous years, the deadline to submit petitions has passed. This has been corrected above.