As the state Democratic party gathers itself for next year’s mid-term elections, party faithful representing both the progressive and establishment camps rallied behind former state Sen. Morgan Carroll as their new leader.
Carroll easily dispatched her rival for the spot, Clear Creek County Commissioner Tim Mauck, by a vote of 401 to 38.
Carroll’s victory is seen by some as a strong step toward unifying a party split in two by last year’s presidential primary. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders took the caucuses, winning the ongoing loyalty of Democrats who continue to fight for more progressive agenda.
“There’s very much a split in the party, but [Carroll] has the ability to bring people back together,” said Greeley City Councilwoman Rochelle Galindo, who was among several who nominated Carroll for party chair.
Carroll, who ran unsuccessfully against incumbent Republican Rep. Mike Coffman, told The Colorado Independent before the voting that Saturday’s election “is critical, more important than anything we’ve seen at the state and national level.
“Both political parties are at a turning point,” she said, “where we need to recreate, reinvent, strengthen, think outside the box, so that we can do a better job of connecting with voters and get people elected to fight for the things we believe in.”
For Democrats in particular, “everything we care about and everything we fight for is on the line and in profound jeopardy.”
Carroll succeeds former state party chair Rick Palacio, who stepped down after last November’s election.
The enthusiasm for the election and the party’s future was obvious from the minute you walked into the downtown Denver Marriott. Supporters of candidates vying for state party offices lined the entrances to the elevators leading to the basement ballroom, holding signs and handing out stickers and fliers.
It wasn’t only the state party candidates doing the politicking. Democrats who want to take the next step to a statewide office were there, too. Among them: Rep. Joe Salazar, fresh off a Friday announcement that he would run for attorney general and former state Sen. Mike Johnston of Denver, who is running for governor. Also in attendance were several people whose names are being bandied about for governor: U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter of Wheat Ridge and former state Treasurer Cary Kennedy of Denver.
“Good morning, resistance movement!” shouted U.S. Rep. Jared Polis of Boulder, to loud cheers. He called the reinvigoration of Democrats the “silver lining” from the November election, and called upon Democrats to continue the momentum into 2018.
“We may have a president beholden to foreign interests, with an utter disregard for the truth,” Polis said. “We do not live in a ‘post-fact’ world. We live in a world where facts exist. We can’t be afraid to cite those facts or make those arguments – whether it’s that climate change exists and it is caused by humans, or that the Republican health care bill will cost tens of millions their health care.”
Rep. Diana DeGette of Denver was there, too, bleary-eyed from a 27-hour session in Washington, D.C. on the Republicans’ health care bill. “I never pulled all-nighters when I was in college!” she told The Independent.
But to the audience, she was more grim. “That bill did not get any better with time,” she said. “America needs your help [to] defeat this bill … It will take away healthcare from 15 million people, who now have cancer treatments and family planning or birth control, and they will lose all of it.”
She exhorted the audience to call U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner of Yuma every day. “He needs to hear real life stories about how the Affordable Care Act” is helping people, she said.
“It’s exceptionally important for Colorado to continue to be strong and grow Democrats and contribute to changing that guard on the national level,” Mauck told The Independent before the vote. “We will do this with the leadership presented today, and will unite and move forward for 2018.”
Joe Moore, chair of the Colorado Stonewall Democrats, said Carroll visited his group recently to lobby for their votes. “She brings diversity and energy to the party,” he said. “I think she will get behind initiatives for special outreach” to the LGBT, Latinos and African-American communities.
Carroll noted after the vote that she had been supported by the Sanders wing before, in part because of her track record on grassroots organizing, campaign finance and lobbying reform and taking on wealthy corporate interests.
“It’s all about relationships,” she told The Independent. “What we saw today is people coming together in the Democratic party, in all 64 counties, young, old, new, experienced. It was an amazing unifying moment to see how much diversity we had coming together to support our new effort in the party.”
West Slope Democrat Emily Tracy of Summit County, who ran for the state Senate last November, said she sensed both candidates for party chair recognized the party needs to do more than it has in the past, such as increasing outreach to registered Dems and unaffiliated voters. “I think we lost a lot in 2016 because people didn’t vote and weren’t invigorated by the Democratic Party. We have a lot to learn. We can’t do business the same way.”
The real drama of the day came with the nail-biting races for first and second vice-chair, both of which were seen as indicative of which wing of the party, progressive or establishment, holds more sway right now — or at least with those in the room.
As of press time, the races were still undecided. We will update this post when the vote comes in.
Photo by Marianne Goodland, The Colorado Independent