[dropcap]B[/dropcap]roomfield is a top swing county in this top swing state, represented by officials from both parties. But Democrats are in the majority where it matters, and Republicans caucusing in the high school auditorium Tuesday evening told each other they were fed up with the way liberal leaders are running their country, state and county into the ground.
“Who’s ready to send Mark Udall at the Senate home? ” said county GOP Chairman Rick Fernandez. The roughly 200, mostly middle-aged voters smiled and cheered.
Fernandez soon zeroed in on the main target in Broomfield this election year – state Rep. Dianne Primavera, who has served six years, on and off, representing Broomfield’s House District 33 on the exurban plains north of Denver.
Primavera’s Democratic supporters were caucusing in the library just one long, blue-locker-lined hallway away.
“I want you to make a lot of noise on this one so they can hear you on the other side of the school,” Fernandez told caucus-goers. “Who’s ready to send Dianne Primavera home? I want you to remember how you felt last year when Dianne Primavera was voting away our Second Amendment rights… Are you ready to send her home?”
Fernandez was referring to Primavera’s votes last spring for two controversial gun-control laws — one that closed loopholes on background checks for gun purchases and another that banned sales of ammunition magazines that hold more than 15 rounds. The new laws spurred a recall movement last summer that ousted two Democratic senators and prompted another to step down.
Fernandez’s fiery speech and the conversations among voters milling in the school hallways echoed recall-movement rhetoric and Tea Party sentiment expressed most volubly in 2010, when anti-Obamacare town halls made headlines around the state and gave Republicans a one-seat majority in the House at the state legislature. Broomfield Republicans that year sent their candidate, businessman Don Beezley, to Denver. He beat Primavera by 314 votes.
The talk was still about Obamacare, loss of liberty and “taking back the country,” but the tone Tuesday night was less angry than it was last summer and in 2010. It was more hopeful.
Broomfield’s caucus-goers were openly upbeat about recent surprise late-entries in races for two top seats in the state. Young, telegenic Congressman Cory Gardner has joined the race to unseat U.S. Sen. Udall. And former Congressman Bob Beauprez announced Monday that he had entered the field now running to replace Gov. John Hickenlooper.
Republican voters, including Tea Party and libertarian Coloradans, haven’t hesitated to level insults at the party establishment in past years when grassroots efforts to choose candidates seem to have been undermined by insider annointments made in Denver and Washington — deals that can make old-school, retail political events like a caucus seem nothing more than show.
But there was none of that kind of grumbling Tuesday in the wake of the wheeling and dealing that led to last week’s so-called “Centennial State Swap,” in which candidates shuffled races and dropped out to make way for Gardner.
“Look, I think we’re all feeling a lot of good energy coming off these late entries,” said David Pigott, a lawyer who is one of two Republicans vying for the chance to run against Rep. Primavera. “The Senate and Governor race shakeups are a good thing. It’s a good sign. Six months ago, these guys weren’t interested. They didn’t think they could win those races. Now they clearly think they can.
“We’re all feeling a tremendous amount of momentum from the recall elections.”
Pigott said Broomfield, at least, is benefitting from local party leadership that has avoided the kind of divisions that have plagued the right in other parts of the state and nation in the Tea Party era.
“The leaders here have worked really hard to make sure liberty-minded voters feel involved… There is no acrimony here.”
But in 2012, the vote on the right was split between Piggot and Libertarian candidate W. Earl Allen. And this year Piggot is facing a strong primary opponent in Marijo Tinlin, a management consultant who, like Beauprez and Gardner, is a late-entry candidate. She said she just announced this week.
“I think all the news, it just adds to the chatter. It gets voters excited and, in a midterm election, you need energy. Beauprez and Gardner, they’re good candidates,” she said.
If the past is any measure, Tinlin said the race against Primavera will be expensive. Primavera raised and spent $140,000 in 2012. Outside groups that support her spent another $100,000.
Tinlin, who has worked as a salesperson and professional fundraiser, told the caucus goers that she is the best choice to keep pace with Primavera in the money race. Tinlin’s also a mom. In the bedroom communities that make up the district — and in a race against Primavera, who lists her role as a mother high on her resume — that credential is an important one.
“She’ll talk about being a mom, and so will I. Voters here are talking about education, about Common Core testing. I have kids in school,” Tinlin said.
Voter Sandra Scott Smith, 66, was attending her first-ever caucus Tuesday.
“It’s my first shebang,” she said. “I’ve been all talk and no action, so here I am!”
Nate Randall, 33, was one of the youngest of Broomfield’s Republican caucus-goers. He said the party is experiencing some “chaos” lately, but he didn’t think that’s a bad thing. “I like less control. It makes things interesting,” he said.
In the night’s non-binding straw poll, Secretary of State Scott Gessler came out way on top in the governor’s race with 46.3 percent of the vote in Broomfield. Fernandez said the Secretary established a strong reputation in the county as election administrators worked through a close and contested off-year election and recount last November. “He has made the rounds.”
Gessler was followed in Broomfield’s straw poll by Beauprez, who notched 29 percent. Then came state Senator Greg Brophy with 6.2 percent, former state Senator Mike Kopp with 3.7 percent and Adams County Republican Party Chairman Steve House with 1.9 percent.
Gardner ran away with the U.S. Senate race straw polling, landing 87.3 percent of caucus-goers’ support. Then came State Senator Owen Hill with 7 percent, and state Senator Randy Baumgardner with 5.1 percent of the vote.
With reporting by Shelby Kinney-Lang.