Group explores shifting Colorado to a presidential primary
Republicans and Democrats alike said they wanted Colorado to have a presidential primary after a messy caucus night in March. With no legislative solution this session, a handful of Republican senators have formed an unofficial organization, the Colorado Elections Study Group, to look at whether Colorado should bring back a presidential primary.
The group includes Sens. Laura Woods of Arvada, Ray Scott of Grand Junction, Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling, Kevin Grantham of Cañon City and Kevin Lundberg of Berthoud. The group will hold its first meeting at 1 p.m. on June 11 at the Capitol.
“Our experience with the primary bills showed that finding consensus on this topic isn’t easy, given the wide array of opinions and interests involved, but we think more progress can be made,” Grantham said in a statement.
Woods told The Colorado Independent that there were a lot of unhappy people around the state after the demise of the two primary bills. Many asked lawmakers to hang onto the caucus system. “So we decided the best thing to do was to put together a study group and listen to the people,” she said.
The study group can look at topics such as whether to let unaffiliated voters participate.
Woods said the group intends to reach out this week to Democrats, Libertarians and members of the Green Party, American Constitution Party and other political parties and unaffiliated voters.
“We want input from the whole state. Not just one party,” she said.
The group plans to hold five meetings in Grand Junction, Pueblo and Fort Collins, plus another meeting in Denver. All should be completed before Election Day in November, Woods said.
Scott and Sonnenberg are the chair and vice-chair, respectively, of the Senate’s State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, which killed a bipartisan proposal to create a primary in the last days of the legislative session.
Sonnenberg offered to turn the bill, which called for a presidential primary that would have allowed unaffiliated voters to participate, into a study. The bill’s Senate sponsor, Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman of Denver, rejected that, saying there was plenty of time before the 2020 presidential elections to work out the details.
Guzman’s bill would have allowed unaffiliated voters to participate in the primary by temporarily joining with a major party. That affiliation would revert back to unaffiliated 30 days after the primary.
A second bill, sponsored by Lundberg, would have done much of the same, except that unaffiliated voters who participate in the primary would have to affiliate with a party and then ask that their registration revert back to unaffiliated. That bill died in the Senate, too.
GOP Party Chair Steve House told The Colorado Independent the state party is not officially involved in the effort, although the party does intend to provide input. However, Woods noted that the state party’s executive committee last week appointed a taskforce that will “assist and observe” and report back to the executive committee.
The Libertarian Party of Colorado has encouraged its members and supporters to be at the June 11 meeting.
The Colorado Democratic Party has not made any public statement about the study group. Calls to party Chair Rick Palacio were not returned.
Photo credit: Ally Aubry, Creative Commons, Flickr.
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