Colorado’s Democratic and Republican caucuses are old news. You’ve read about the chaos that was Super Tuesday, and controversy over the delegate count. But there are other political parties in Colorado whose members still have yet to gather and talk state and national politics, select delegates, and play their part in the race for the White House.
One of those is the Libertarian Party of Colorado. With around 25,000 active members, the state party is led by 19-year-old Nathan Grabau, a full-time student at the Colorado School of Mines, who has been chairman for roughly two months.
This weekend, the Libertarians will hold their party’s state convention, kicking it off Friday with a 1920s speakeasy-themed affair with casino-style games and music, at the Hilton Doubletree hotel in Colorado Springs. The business meetings will be Saturday and Sunday.
Not anyone can participate, but anyone can attend.
To vote or speak, “You have to be a registered Libertarian in Colorado and you have to have been one for 90 days prior to the convention starting,” Grabau told The Colorado Independent. “Anyone who shows up as a registered Libertarian in Colorado has a say.”
Instead of caucuses like those of their Democratic and Republican peers in Colorado, the Libertarians try to fill the ranks of state and national offices with their members through a convention process. This weekend, Colorado Libertarians will nominate candidates for office in break-out business sessions at their convention.
The process goes like this: If Jane Libertarian wants to run for the 2nd Congressional District, she can nominate herself or someone can do it for her. So say Bob Libertarian nominates Jane. Jane will then give a presentation about her candidacy and have a conversation with the other Libertarian delegates in attendance. They can ask her about why she wants to run, how she’ll do it, what her political stances are, or whether she prefers Ayn Rand or Rand Paul, whatever.
If multiple Libertarians step up to run for a certain office, the delegates take a vote and the candidate with 51 percent gets the nomination. Each round of voting will bump out the candidate with the lowest percentage in true survival-of-the-fittest fashion. Typically there aren’t multiple Libertarians seeking one office. With such a small pool of those willing to run, candidates usually talk it out amongst themselves beforehand to decide who might be the best choice for a particular race. Currently, though, the Libertarian Party has multiple candidates looking to run in the big U.S. Senate race against Democrat Michael Bennet. Delegates Colorado Libertarians select to go to the national convention are also chosen this way.
One interesting wrinkle in the party’s rules is that during the convention nomination process, delegates can always vote for none of the above.
“None of the above is always an option, which is very important to Libertarians,” Grabau says.
So what if a vote for none of the above gets to 51 percent before an actual candidate does?
“When that happens we won’t put a candidate on that seat,” says Grabau.
And why might that happen?
“The reality is we do have people who are less than sane seeking these offices, so as a result you’ll have multiple — I don’t want to call them crazy people but they could be — [but people who] maybe from an ideological perspective don’t align with Libertarians,” Grabau explains. “The body will choose to not have a candidate than choose one of these people at times. It doesn’t happen often, but does from time to time.”
Libertarians are targeting candidates for multiple state House and Senate districts in 2016. In Colorado, Grabau says, there are some Libertarians who hold seats on town trustee boards, water boards and sanitation boards, but no state-level offices. There was a county sheriff once, but not anymore.
This weekend in Colorado Springs, the Libertarians will also play a local role in presidential politics. The way that works is they select delegates at the Colorado Springs convention, who will then go to the national Libertarian convention, which takes place in Orlando, Florida at the end of May. Colorado’s delegates are not bound to a specific candidate and can choose whoever they want once they get to the convention. Colorado has about 30 Libertarian delegates who could go to Orlando. In 2008 the national party held its convention in Denver.
With such a volatile presidential election galvanizing the country right now, Grabau sees an opening for his party that’s socially liberal and fiscally conservative and puts a premium on individual liberty and free markets. Currently, White House hopefuls in both major political parties are taking on the established order, with Donald Trump making old GOP bulls wince and Bernie Sanders disrupting the Democratic elite, even here in Colorado.
“We think we’ll have a large growth in our presidential vote totals in 2016 because of that,” Grabau says.
[Photo credit: philosophygeek via Creative Commons on Flickr]