Bina: The button-down caucus |

Bina: The button-down caucus

Tonya Bina
Off Beat/ Grand County, Colo.

As a non-affiliated voter who lives in precinct 10, I took a back seat as an observer at the Republican Caucus on Tuesday night.

In 2008, when interest was aimed at the Democratic race with the prospect of a woman or a black man being the nominee for the highest office, I attended the Democratic Caucus in my precinct. At that caucus four years ago, I remember a roomful of voters dividing themselves up by precinct, then arranging chairs into circles for what became passionate discourse among neighbors on each of the presidential and congressional candidates.

Among the Republicans in precincts 1 and 10 on Tuesday night, there was no chair arranging, and the tempered discourse was limited to Precinct 1 Chair Kathy Weydert explaining procedure and leading the meeting, as well as a few speeches given by delegate candidates and a discussion later about “binding votes.”

According to Weydert, the turnout was impressive.

“I’ve been at caucuses before where there’s been five people,” she said. “It’s nice to see people!” In total, 49 people sat in rows facing the precinct leaders.

Each attendee took out a fresh ballot during the straw poll to name their choice for the Republican presidential nominee. Rick Santorum was the winner.

Later, there would be a discussion among a few at the meeting about the need for the Republican Party in Colorado to review the caucus system. The straw poll to gauge presidential nominees is non-binding, meaning it has no real bearing on which nominee will actually move forward in the election process.

What matters are the delegates the caucus electorate chooses. Each delegate pledges to a certain nominee and will cast a vote in favor of that person at the state assembly. So in effect, a person’s individual preference for a nominee at the caucus has little influence on the greater political engine.

Both precincts 1 and 10 voted in favor of crafting a resolution that would introduce a primary election process in the Republican Party so that the popular voice would have a binding presidential vote.

“I wish we were part of Super Tuesday,” one voter voiced. “I think we could get better candidates and at least feel like we count a little more.”

“That’s a widespread desire,” said Grand County Republican Chair Harry Kottcamp the next day when I called to ask him about it. “I hear it all the time.”

To select a total of 18 delegates from Grand County that will attend the state assembly, April 13-14, one is elected from each precinct, and six more are chosen at the Grand County Assembly.

Three candidates from District 1 announced willingness to be a state delegate, and each gave a short speech. Each of the possible delegates had voted for Mitt Romney in the straw poll that night, they said, but none had pledged.

“Our one goal, and our only goal,” said Dan Korkowski, ultimately chosen to be a delegate, “is we need to really push to get the person who is in the White House out of there.”

In my precinct, John Gould was elected as a state delegate. He encouraged voters to elect a Republican team to work with a Republican president, “from the Congress all the way down to the county level.”

After speeches read by citizens on behalf of state and county candidates, people were encouraged to become poll watchers to prevent the “Democratic machine” from recruiting voters to the polls like they did in 2008, according to one former Republican poll watcher.

When the meeting was about to wrap up, “Please, let’s keep the momentum going. We need a change – and again, I hate to use that word,” Weydert said.

Grand County usually leans toward the Republican ticket in state and national races.

Perhaps it’s this comfort of seldom being the underdog that has made Republican voters subdued during the caucus process – at least it seemed that way in my precinct by comparing the 2008 Democratic caucus to the 2012 Republican caucus.

Because circumstances are different this election, I thought I’d witness a lively exchange of support for certain Republican candidates. But from my vantage point in my corner of the world – even though turnout was favorable – Republicans could turn it up a notch this election season.

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