By Jim Ellis
Aug. 9, 2017 — Local Centennial State news reports indicate that a Colorado Republican Central Committee vote will transpire in late September about whether to cancel the 2018 party primary.
The vote would have a significant effect upon not only the governor’s nomination campaign, but also the budding 5th Congressional District challenge to Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs), and choosing a party nominee for the potentially competitive open 7th CD (Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter retiring).
In lieu of the party primary, the Colorado Republicans would return to their previous system of holding closed party conventions to choose their nominees. The convention system is currently in use, but can only officially endorse candidates, and not nominate them as in years past. Some GOP committee members offer the argument that the Colorado open primary will allow non-Republicans to influence the primary to the degree that a non-representative GOP candidate wins certain office nominations, thus dooming the party to defeat in the succeeding general election.
The move is in response to the voting public approving Proposition 108 in the 2016 election that allows the state’s non-affiliated voters, some 1.4 million individuals, to vote in the primary of their choice. Registered party members are limited to participate only in the party primary to which they are officially affiliated. Both parameters are common procedures in modified primary states. The new election law allows the party central committees to opt out of holding a primary, but only if 75 percent of the voting committee members choose to do so.
Colorado Republican Party chairman Jeff Hays, who was elected on a platform of holding primaries over nominating conventions, says he plans to bring the motion to a vote at the Sept. 23 central committee meeting. He does not believe the proponents have anywhere near the 75 percent vote total that they would need to carry the motion, but wants the issue fully debated and decided.
Adams County central committee member Ben Nicholas humorously countered that the current primary system is like “allowing the New England Patriots fans to have a say in who the Broncos starting quarterback should be.”
With Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) ineligible to seek a third term, the Colorado chief executive position will be open for the first time in eight years. Though the Democrats are headed for a hotly contested primary, Aurora region District Attorney George Brauchler appears to be the most prominent Republican currently within the field of candidates. But, rumors persist that either Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) or his wife, Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, could enter the race.
The congressional races, however, particularly in District 5 could be greatly affected if the nomination system changes. Here, a potential challenge from El Paso County Commissioner and 2016 US Senate nominee Dylan Glenn (R) could benefit greatly from the caucus system. Glenn captured the party endorsement in convention last year, which helped him claim the nomination in the party primary.
Largely because the national Republicans ignored him, Glenn ran an uncompetitive campaign in terms of dollars spent. Yet, he still managed to fall only six points short of Sen. Michael Bennet (D) in the general election despite being outspent almost 4:1, and this ratio does not even account for the Democratic independent expenditures.
The Colorado situation is a good illustration of just how important choosing voting systems can be, and how they can affect certain candidates either positively or adversely. This is one more example of how the political “game within the game,” can often be the key deciding factor in an election.