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

has been a political journalist since 1998. She covered the state capitol for the Silver & Gold Record from 1998 to 2009 and for The Colorado Statesman in 2010-11 and 2013-14. Since 2010 she also has covered the General Assembly for newspapers in northeastern Colorado. She was recognized with awards from the Colorado Press Association for feature writing and informational graphics for her work with the Statesman in 2012.


  1. We need to step up as a state and do this. It needs to be a state primary and include all candidates, all political parties and all registered voters whether affiliated or not. No voter should be left out. We should also do instant run-off voting. Our ambition should be to have the most open democratic republic in the country, setting an example for the rest of the USA.

  2. I hope those attending the June 11th meeting at the Capitol will inform themselves about the Colorado Caucus.

    The Colorado Caucus is the last, best hope for the common person to serve in elected public office.

    A so-called presidential primary kills the Colorado Caucus, we know from trying it here in Colorado not long ago for a couple of election cycles, switching back in 2004, but it has never been like it was before this misguided experiment. This past March 1 Caucus was an absolute disaster because of the almost total lack of leadership, both state chairs should have been immediately dumped.

    Legislators like the Colorado Caucus when they first run, but once elected most dread it because it is so easy for a primary opponent to get on the ballot.

    Gov Shafroth gave us the Colorado Caucus as part of the progressive reforms he pushed through the reluctant legislators in a 1910 special session. It put the rank and file members control of the party bosses. Party bosses have been trying to kill it ever since.

    Don’t allow yourself to be manipulated on this important issue. Read Sue O’Brien’s column, watch the video lecture in partisan vs “independent” political participation, and the other info on

    The more you learn about the Colorado Caucus system, the more clearly you will see it is the best way to strengthen the grassroots when there is good leadership.

    John Wren, registered agent for Save the Caucus, a Colorado political committee.

  3. One other element – I think the primary should include ALL offices, simplifying the current muddle of straw poll (or not) in a caucus, multi-layered conventions, arcane petition rules and a primary.

    If unaffiliated voters get to vote, perhaps we should strip off party indications and go to a California-like system of the top two in the primary competing in the general election.

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