The infrastructure of Colorado’s Democratic Party is still changing after a series of routine elections continued at the county leadership level over the weekend. And while it might still be too early to say how much of an effect new leadership changes will have on the status quo, there’s plenty of young, new energy in the era of Donald Trump.
Since the beginning of the month, county Democratic parties around the state have been holding insider elections to staff up their offices with chairs, vice chairs, secretaries, treasurers and other party officers. These county elections— re-org, party people call it— happen every two years to reshuffle the party deck.
In Denver, the county party on Saturday elected a new chairman, Mike Cerbo, a former lawmaker who was president of the state’s AFL-CIO labor union. Cerbo caucused for Hillary Clinton last year in Colorado and was running against JoAnn Fujioka, a longtime party activist. Fujioka had support from a state-based group called #DemEnter, which seeks to move the party more toward its progressive wing and to bring Democrats who left the party back into the fold.
Skip Madsen, a founder of the #DemEnter movement, says about 85 new people signed up to the group’s Facebook page over the weekend, which now counts about 580 members.
In Adams County, retired teacher and union member Lori Goldstein was elected chair. She had support from vocal Sanders supporters such as Thornton Rep. Joe Salazar who characterized the election as new blood versus the old guard and said prior to the election that if she won it would be an “awakening.”
Pueblo County Democrats over the weekend re-elected Marybeth Corsentino as their party chair over community organizer Vicente Martinez Ortega. The Democrats lost Pueblo this year in the presidential race, the first time the traditionally Democratic stronghold went for a Republican nominee since Richard Nixon in 1972.
Corsentino wants to do a better job targeting and persuading voters. “It’s not enough to be anti-Trump,” she said, according to The Pueblo Chieftain. “That didn’t work in this last election. Social media is important, but it cannot replace personal contact and conversation with our elected officials and each other.”
David Sabados runs the Colorado Young Democrats and has been to multiple county re-orgs over the past couple weeks in his campaign for 1st vice-chair of the state party. He says he has noticed “a surge of young people stepping up and being elected whether it’s to county leadership or House district offices or onto the state central committee.”
He’s also noticing a larger turnout. Yesterday, in the small, heavily Republican Teller county, Sabados said they had to keep pulling out more chairs in the public library for the meeting.
As for a re-org meeting in Otero County on Feb. 7, a county commissioner told his local paper, the La Junta Tribune Democrat, “I have never seen so many people in this room.”
That day in the small rural part of southern Colorado, a slate of new, young faces was elected to lead the county party. Joe Ayala, 30, took the chairmanship. Sanders supporters won for 1st vice chair, local party secretary and treasurer, Ayala says.
Ayala was a Bernie backer who was disillusioned with Clinton and voted for Green Party nominee Jill Stein for president. He didn’t switch to the Green Party because he said he came to believe one could never be progressive enough for them. On the night of the election when Trump won and rural counties lost big to Democrats across the country, he decided to get more involved as a Democrat.
“We just can’t keep winning big cities and losing rural America,” he told The Colorado Independent.
On March 11, Colorado Democrats who make up the state’s central committee, essentially its governing body, will elect a new state party chair to replace outgoing chair Rick Palacio who served for the past six years.
Morgan Carroll, the former Senate Majority Leader who unsuccessfully tried to unseat Congressman Mike Coffman this cycle, faces off against the party’s 2nd vice chair, Barbara Jones, Clear Creek County Commissioner Tim Mauck, and Democrat Scott Brown.
In crisscrossing the state over the past few weeks in her campaign, Carroll says she has seen larger-than-expected turnout at meetings, and both newcomers and longtime members being elected into leadership positions.
“Not a clear trend,” she says of any major shift in the party infrastructure. “We haven’t seen everybody thrown out, we haven’t seen everybody come back … it just looks like a healthy mix across the state to me.”
Photo by Poker Photos for Creative Commons in Flickr.