Bernie backer Electra Johnson elected new Democratic Party chair in El Paso County

She caucused for Bernie, rallied support for Hillary, and gave the local GOP a scare in a county commissioner race

Bernie backer Electra Johnson elected new Democratic Party chair in El Paso County

COLORADO SPRINGS — El Paso County Democrats, who live in one of the most heavily Republican parts of Colorado, have elected Electra Johnson as their new leader.

The local architect and urban designer beat Shari Zabel, a trans candidate with an Air Force background. Johnson was an early supporter of Bernie Sanders and became politically active after caucusing for him at her neighborhood precinct last spring.

“You could say we have a mandate,” said John Jarrell, 33, who helped Johnson’s campaign for chair.

Jarrell is part of the #DemEnter movement in Colorado, which aims to get potentially disenchanted Sanders supporters into elected leadership roles in county Democratic Parties. It is the opposite of the #DemExit movement, which saw self-proclaimed Berniecrats bolt the party after the Democratic National Convention in Philly where Hillary Clinton took the nomination.

“The fact that we’re still here means that we’re taking a leading role,” Jarrell said of himself and other Sanders Democrats just prior to the vote for county party chair.

The vote came during the El Paso County Democratic Party’s every-two-years reorganization meeting in a community center cafeteria in Colorado Springs. A couple hundred local Democrats who make up the county’s central committee showed up to meet, eat breakfast, and to cast their votes for a reshuffling of the party leadership.

Johnson will replace Kathleen Ricker who served as county party chair for the past six years and chose not to run again.

Merrified, himself one of only a handful of Sanders supporters in the state legislature during last year’s caucuses, nominated Johnson to the post. He said he believed she could “bring all the branches of our many-branch tree together to fight and work in opposition to the ugliness that we’re seeing at the national level and the state level.”

A political newcomer, Johnson gained recognition throughout southern Colorado during her 2016 campaign for a seat on the El Paso County Commission. She decided to run for that post while caucusing for Bernie Sanders. She lost by about six points to a Trump-supporting retired Air Force officer but ran an impressive campaign for a seat on a local commission where no Democrat has won since the 1970s.

For months, her purple “Elect Electra” yard signs were impossible to miss in the leafy neighborhoods of Colorado Springs, or in store windows in the city and Manitou Springs.

For her part, Johnson said Democrats in El Paso County must come together to combat national-level Republican politics.

And the task they face here is larger than elsewhere, she said, because of the top-heavy GOP influence. She said the Democratic Party should be the voice for the voiceless and needs to connect to underserved communities, such as those living on the county’s east side.

“We must never be complacent again and we must reach out to everybody,” she said, adding the Democratic Party should be the party of inclusivity, of empowerment and bringing people together. “And we have to do it out of what we love and not out of what we fear.”

On the Saturday before the Nov. 8 election, Johnson introduced Sanders at a rally for Hillary Clinton in Colorado Springs.

 

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About the Author

Corey Hutchins

is a journalist in Colorado, and Columbia Journalism Review's Rocky Mountain correspondent for the United States Project. Follow him on Twitter @CoreyHutchins and email him at CoreyHutchins [at] gmail [dot] com.

7 Comments

  1. Skip Madsen on said:

    It’s #DemEnter. and locally,it’s #DemEnterCO. Officially,we have almost 8,000 mmembers nationwide. About 200 members won elections to State Party offices this week. Next week will be more.

  2. Anonymous on said:

    God loves irony. The same Democratic Party members who have complained loudly about Donald Trump being elected to the Presidency despite having no previous political experience, have just elected to their county party chair and vice chairs people with no previous political experience. Sure, Electra ran for County Commissioner, but she lost. Tracie Powell hasn’t even done that much. And neither of them have ever attended, much less planned, a local party event. Or ever sat in during a local party meeting, which are always open. Or ever shadowed (or much met) the officers of the positions they now hold. Despite this ignorance of Goethe party works and what the party does, and despite their inexperience in being any active part of the party they now lead, and despite the local dems complaints about these same traits in Trump, these people now run their local Democratic Party, and the local democrats elected them to do it, and Trump is in the White House, and God loves irony.

  3. JR on said:

    Pretty sure God loves fallacious logic too. You must have a piss-poor sense of irony if you think anyone cares about a County Chair being inexperienced. The President? Yeah, we actually do care. You know, because he IS THE LEADER OF THE FREE WORLD, YOU MORON.

  4. David Tanner on said:

    Electra Johnson’s 6 point loss, in her El Paso County county commissioner race, just goes to show that Democrats still have not won a seat on that governing body since the 70’s… and that Democrats remain largely irrelevant in this GOP county.

  5. kfreed on said:

    So we can expect more of this from Bernie’s backers is what you’re saying?

    Peak Dems apparently just cannot DO middle of the road, can they? First they tried getting conservatives elected on the Democratic Party ticket, and now they’re so far to the left they can assure no actual Democrat gets within 500 yards of the Colorado Springs Democratic Party. Lovely. May I remind you that Bernie Sanders has a history if undermining Democrats with zero concern as to what electing Republicans does to average working people: https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2016/02/04/when-bernie-sanders-ran-against-vermont/kNP6xUupbQ3Qbg9UUelvVM/story.html

    Also, Colorado’s tax averse constituents will not be backing Bernie’s single-payer agenda EVER: “Single-Payer Health Care System Rejected, Colorado Votes Down Amendment 69” http://denver.cbslocal.com/2016/11/08/single-payer-health-care-system-rejected-colorado-votes-down-amendment-69/

    So-called “progressives” need to start facing reality. Incremental change is the best this country can hope for.

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