Summit County Democrats assemble to decide who will be on June’s primary election ballot
Braving the early spring snowstorm, Democrats from all levels of local, state and federal government convened in Frisco on Wednesday to attend the Summit County Democrats county assembly. The assembly was the second step of the Democratic party’s candidate nomination process on the way to party primary elections in June.
More than 120 delegates, party members, candidates and staff packed the auditorium at the Summit County Community and Senior Center. The mood was largely jovial, as Democrats look to seize an enthusiasm and organizing advantage over the GOP in November.
Rep. Jared Polis, in his final term as congressman and now seeking the governor’s seat, made the assembly his last stop on his day-long visit to Summit. Polis presented a “bold message of hope and opportunity” while touting his efforts in Congress to protect the environment and other issues affecting mountain communities as the reason he should replace John Hickenlooper as Colorado’s next governor.
Polis is facing an unexpected challenge from dark horse candidate Cary Kennedy, who won the county caucuses earlier this month. The gubernatorial race was the only one to see a formal vote at the assembly, with all other races not meeting the minimum 10 percent opposition threshold requiring a straw poll. After apportionment, Polis received 18 delegates to the state convention while Kennedy received 10.
Seeking to replace Polis as representative for the 2nd Congressional District is former CU Regent and rising Colorado political star Joe Neguse, who vowed to be part of the rising resistance to the Trump administration.
“I’m excited to be back in Summit County, and I was proud to represent Summit and all the other counties for six years as CU Regent,” Neguse said. “I’m excited about this campaign, as there’s a lot of momentum for change in D.C. and a Congress that will finally stand up to the Trump administration. I will fight for this district and to make sure Congress will be responsive to issues in Summit County and across the district, such as affordable housing.”
In the state attorney general’s race, the former dean of CU Law School, Phil Weiser, promised to work for disenfranchised and underserved Coloradoans if he was elected.
“We need an attorney general defending our freedoms right now,” Weiser said. “Attorney generals are the ones standing up for our democracy. I want to fight for opportunities for people so they’re not taken advantage of, and I want to protect our land, air and water.”
Local candidates in attendance included Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons, who is expected to face off against GOP candidate and former undersheriff Derek Woodman in November. FitzSimons cited his efforts to address the county’s opioid epidemic as one of the reasons he should be re-elected.
“I will continue protecting this community with everything I have,” FitzSimons said. “I’m going to keep building on the successes I’ve had with mental health and our opioid problem up here, as well as protecting our kids in our schools.”
County Commissioner Dan Gibbs, who is running for his third and final term as commissioner, established three major points of emphasis if he is re-elected.
“First, we need to keep working on workforce housing,” Gibbs said. “I believe that people should have the ability to live where they work and work where they live, and housing is at a crisis stage at the moment. Second, health care. Nobody should be paying as much as we’re paying for the lousy health coverage we have in Summit. Third, protecting the environment, as it’s a huge economic driver for us. People come here to hike, to ski, to be outdoors and it has a huge trickle effect on our economy. I’m going to keep on doing everything I can to protect the environment.”
The race for county treasurer remains the only competitive local race. Deputy Treasurer Ryne Scholl will square off against Keystone Science School financial director and former financial analyst Maggie Murray in June’s primary election.
Murray opted to take her name out of the assembly process a few days prior, instead relying on the petition process to get on the June ballot. That left Scholl as the only treasurer candidate approved by the assembly on Wednesday along with submitting a completed petition. Scholl said his experience was the reason the party put their faith in him.
“I’m excited to run for treasurer,” Scholl said. “I want to utilize the experience I have in the county finance and treasurer office to provide a real community benefit. I will be the only candidate ready on day one and will hit the ground running with my experience.”
Murray, a political newcomer who has shown a never-say-die attitude to get on the ballot without assembly participation, said she preferred reaching out to regular voters in her mission to become county treasurer.
“I qualified for the ballot as a petition candidate, so I really focused on getting around and talking to a broad base of support,” Murray said. “I am officially on the ballot and running to become Summit County treasurer, and I am really excited to keep going and make a difference in Summit County.”
Emily Tracy, vice chair of Summit County Democrats, said that the assembly was a resounding success of party organizing. She attributed enthusiasm to the solid crop of Democrats running for office this year.
“Everyone at the assembly was very upbeat,” Tracy said. “A lot of that has to do with the fact that we have a really rich group of party candidates running for local, state and federal office. Even discussion of the platform resolution, usually the most contentious, was positive. People here just want to contribute and help out with the issues our party cares about the most.”
The next step in the nomination process are the congressional and state conventions on April 13 and 14 at the 1stBank Center in Broomfield. Delegates will be once again convene to decide which candidates should run in the June primary, this time needing to meet a 30 percent threshold to remain in the race.
This article has been updated to clarify that Ryne Scholl also qualified by petition.
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