GOP draws a surprising turnout" and a split between McCain, Romney
February 6, 2008
Republican activists in Pitkin County were stunned when approximately 125
people showed up at the party’s county caucus meeting Tuesday night and
split their support between presidential candidates John McCain and Mitt
The caucus, like others across the state, held a “presidential preference
poll” early in the meeting.
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With 115 ballots cast, the caucus participants gave 47 votes each to McCain
and Romney, with Ron Paul receiving 16 and Mike Huckabee 5. The results were
to be sent by 9 p.m. to the statewide Republican party, to be tallied with
results from all around the state.
As of press deadline Tuesday night, Romney, the former governor of
Massachusetts, was projected to have won the Republican caucuses by a margin
of 3-2 over McCain, the senator from Arizona, as well as beating Huckabee
At stake in Colorado are 43 Republican and 55 Democratic delegates, to be
selected through the assembly and convention system. The caucus preference
polls were nonbinding, and in fact Jackson County declined to hold a
preference poll at all, according to the 9 News election center coverage.
Colorado voters won’t select presidential delegates until the major parties
have their conventions in May.
The number of Republicans at the Pitkin County caucus was at least as big a
story as the presidential preference poll.
Pitkin County is known as a stronghold of Democrats and liberal voters in an
otherwise conservative state. It often is stated that the Republican party
in Pitkin County is relatively moribund, but Tuesday’s turnout indicated
The crowd overwhelmed the meeting room at the Aspen Square hotel and
condominium complex near the base of Aspen Mountain, to the point where
caucus officials sent an entire table of participants downstairs to provide
space for the gathering to breathe.
Most of those in the room never had been to a caucus meeting before. One
party activist said only about a half-dozen people showed up at the most
recent Republican caucus, that took place last year to conduct party
“We’ve always been active, we’ve always voted,” said Jerry Kehle, a
transplant from California who now lives in Aspen, adding that he was
“curious about how the caucus process works” and so he decided to check it
Roy Wiedinmeyer, originally from Pennsylvania, also came out of curiosity,
noting, “I didn’t know there were this many Republicans in Pitkin County.”
Some came to the caucus out of a fervent commitment to a particular
candidate, such as Bill Wessen, who said this was his first time at a
He came, he said, “because I feel the future of our country is at stake.”
Most people do not understand the U.S. monetary system, or that “our lives
are controlled by the Federal Reserve, which is not federal and has no
reserves,” he said.
He supports the candidacy of Ron Paul, he said, and he feels that if Paul is
not elected president, “the republic that America was founded as will no
longer exist, and our personal freedoms will be gone.”
Relative newcomer Melanie Sturm said she moved to Aspen from Washington,
D.C., “where I frankly didn’t have much of a voice,” and was elected captain
of her precinct.
She said she “felt proud to be part of this process in America,” although
she hopes to bring a greater degree of organization to future caucus
meetings and to encourage broader discussion of issues and ideas than took
And array of munchies and soft drinks were served at 5 p.m., and
participants had been sitting around tables talking politics and socializing
for an hour or more when the meeting was opened with the recitation of the
Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer.
That was followed by the election of precinct captains for the dozen
precincts in the county, and county Republican Party Chairwoman Linda
McCausland was re-elected by popular acclaim.
Third Congressional District candidate Wayne Wolf, from Cedaredge, is
running against incumbent Rep. John Salazar, a Democrat, and Libertarian
Steven McDufffie. Wolf spoke briefly to the gathering, before the
presidential preference poll began, as did local Republican Tony Ansbro, in
support of Texas Congressman Ron Paul’s bid for the presidency, and Kay
Singer, in support of Romney.
But the caucus never got around to actually discussing the congressional
race, nor were there any discussions concerning proposals for the state
party platform, although both topics were on the agenda.
McCausland, who did what she could to manage the unexpectedly large meeting,
indicated she would have liked to call for a discussion of issues and races.
But when asked why that did not happen, she replied, “Would you have wanted
to get this room to sit still for all that?”
She said she was happy with the turnout alone, pointing out, “I think, with
all the enthusiasm that we got, we’ll just keep going.”
Near the end of the meeting, a young woman weaving her way through the
thinning crowd said, “I had to come to see how many Republican there
actually are in Pitkin County. I’m happily surprised.”
She declined to reveal her name, saying with a smile, “That would be
detrimental to my job.”