At 7 a.m. last Saturday, a group of Colorado College students wearing political paraphernalia gathered outside of the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. They were there to participate in a part of the democratic process most people don’t hear about: the County Assembly.
In Colorado, candidates have two options if they want to get on their party ballot. Either they earn more than 30 percent of the vote at the state assembly, or they petition onto the ballot with more than 10,000 signatures across the state. For statewide office positions, a petition is often a viable solution. For smaller county positions, the assembly is the way to go.
In El Paso County, where Colorado College is located, 66 percent of registered voters are Republican. Running for small offices like county commissioner, county sheriff, county clerk, or county treasurer as a Democrat is almost folly. According to The Gazette, it has been more than 40 years since Democrats elected someone for one of these positions. According to the El Paso County Democratic Party, this is partially because most of these offices have always been uncontested.
This is the first year Democrats will field candidates for every El Paso County office up for election. In-between categories, Party Chairwoman Electra Johnson spoke about the “blue-wave” sweeping through the country. It seems it may have just reached Colorado Springs.
Elena Martinez is a first-year at CC, a member of keep CC Democrats club, and a lifelong Colorado Springs resident. She was surprised by the number of people at the assembly, “I didn’t think that there were that many Democrats in Colorado Springs,” she said.
The room was packed. In all, there were about 700 delegates in attendance. This didn’t include the people who came only to watch, numbering in the 20s or 30s. Though only a small portion of the 80,000 registered Democrats in the county, the people who made it to the assembly as delegates, through the caucus process, are some of the most dedicated people in the county.
The caucus for CC’s district was hosted in Gaylord Hall a few weeks ago. About 60 people crowded into the room, chatting politely with one another until Sophia Brown ‘19 and Steven Ortega ‘18, both CC students and co-leaders of CC Dems, stepped up to the podium to gather the group’s attention.
Brown got involved in Colorado politics after she realized the solutions to the issues closest to her heart could be solved in the political process. “I realized that every social or environmental issue I care about is impacted by politics and the politicians we elect,” she said.
Most of the people in the room at the caucus were CC students. Many were there to support Cary Kennedy for governor. Kennedy is working to make the ballot through the state assembly route.
Kennedy spoke at the County Assembly along with governor hopefuls Jared Polis, Mike Johnston, and Eric Underwood. It was an exciting opportunity to see not only these statewide candidates, but county and district candidates as well. Every Democrat running for office gave a speech.
Particularly rousing was a speech by Stephany Rose Spaulding. Originally from Illinois, she is a preacher and the Associate Professor of Women’s and Ethnic Studies at UCCS. When she finished speaking, the crowd rose to their feet for an entire minute, clapping and shouting in excitement. John Michael McCann, a first-year at CC, was so inspired by her speech that he is currently looking into how to work for her campaign.
The state assembly will be on Saturday, April and the results will determine the Democratic Party’s primary ballot.
A previous version of this article falsely claimed the CC Dems endorsed Cary Kennedy. The club has yet to formally endorse any candidate.