In April, Summit County will have its caucuses, too |

In April, Summit County will have its caucuses, too

Gary Lindstrom

Iowa is over and now it is off to New Hampshire. Confused yet? You should be.

I teach political science at Colorado Mountain College and sometimes I am overwhelmed too.

I grew up in Iowa and I never thought it would ever rise to this kind of prominence.

Corn, hogs, and that was about it. Yes, John Wayne and Herbert Hoover were born there. Herbert Hoover? Sorry about that.

He was president of the United States just as the Depression started. The Depression was his Monica Lewinsky – if you know what I mean.

If you are older than 50, you will remember John Wayne. He won World War II all by himself. At least he did in the movies.

Other than that, Iowa has always been nondescript.

Then came the Iowa caucuses. Every four years the national and international spotlight is directed toward the small towns and coffee shops in Iowa.

Iowa has the distinction of being the first place in the nation to indicate its choice of candidates for the presidential nominations for each party.

This year it was pretty much a Democrat deal. There is only one nominee for the Republican nomination, President Bush, so there was little or no activity in that party.

Colorado has caucuses in April to pick candidates for party nominations.

That is for the nominations for the Republican and Democrats.

The Green, Libertarian and other third parties have their nominations at their state conventions.

Caucuses are about the most grassroots system ever devised by man. In the purest sense, the party caucuses should occur in private homes, in the living rooms and kitchens in someone’s house.

They used to be that way in Summit County.

They probably still happen that way in some small towns in the rural parts of Colorado.

Today, most party caucuses happen in a school gymnasium or cafeteria. The party faithful schedule the location and everyone shows up to pick candidates.

The groups are broken up based on the location of their residence in the county. There are 18 precincts in Summit County. One is devoted to early and absentee voters and the other 17 relate to your residence.

Each party will normally have one precinct captain and a vice captain for each precinct – so there should be at least 36 people at the county caucus meetings. Each precinct votes on candidates and submits them to the county party chairman for the county assembly.

The county assembly votes to choose who is on the ballot at the primary election.

There can be more than one candidate chosen for each office up for election. When that happens there is a primary for that office in that party.

The county assembly also chooses delegates to the state party conventions and the state party convention chooses state delegates to the national conventions.

See what happens after a bunch of neighbors get together in the kitchen?

The difference between party caucuses and primary elections is interesting.

A primary is a true election with early voting, absentee voting, voting machines, hanging chads and all of the things we hold near and dear to the election process. It is much more formal and much more reliable.

A primary is run the same as a regular election but with many candidates running for the same office. There is always a clear winner in a primary.

There will be a full-blown primary in New Hampshire with one major difference from Iowa’s caucuses.

There will be fewer candidates. Carol Mosely Braun and Dick Gephardt have quit and by the time this column is published there could be more casualties.

I suppose all this is good. It is part of what makes America great. The political process. Competition. Millions spent on marketing. Something to watch on slow news days. Something to occupy our brain cells besides the events in Iraq.

I am a true news freak so I guess I am in my element every four years – watching the candidates go from the ridiculous to the sublime; watching the candidates try to outposture each other and catch each other not telling the truth.

America. What a great place to live all the time but especially during an election year.

Gary Lindstrom writes a Thursday column for the

Summit Daily News. He can be reached at

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