No sooner had the Dakota Ridge High School cheerleading squad finished practicing in the cafeteria Feb. 5 than the room began to fill with South Jefferson County Democrats eager to participate in deciding their party’s next presidential candidate.
“I know this is the first time we’ve had that many Democrats in a room in southwest Jeffco since I don’t know when,” said Nancy Parker, who organized the caucus for the Jefferson County Democrats.
The estimated 300 to 400 attendees erupted in cheers to that statement just moments before dividing into precincts to select delegates for the March 15 county convention. The assembly of registered voters represented about 10 percent of Colorado House District 25, which covers much of Jefferson County and into the foothills.
With 204 of the county’s 324 precincts reporting, Barack Obama of Illinois stood as the most popular candidate, with a 64-percent consensus. Statewide numbers reflected the feelings of Jefferson County voters, with Obama leading New York Sen. Hillary Clinton 65 percent to 34 percent.
But democracy itself may have been the big winner, as turnout, in Jefferson County and statewide, exceeded all expectations.
“I go to school at CU-Boulder, and there is a lot of Obama supporters up there,” said Jason Lambden, 18, who was participating in the election process for the first time. “Obama signs, Obama stickers, Obama T-shirts everywhere. He’s definitely a younger generation-type candidate.”
Democratic voters in Precinct 5 showed a much more even split between the two. Of the 37 who showed up for the caucus, 19 chose Obama, 17 selected Clinton, and one remained undecided.
The experience was truly open for voters, who took time to discuss why they aligned with one candidate or another before the room’s final vote. In the case of the 5th Precinct, the number of people who showed up determined the number of delegates that precinct could send to the county assembly. Of the nine delegates out of the 5th Precinct, five were selected to represent Obama votes, with the remaining four for Clinton.
The voters at Dakota Ridge seemed excited to be involved, regardless of which candidate each chose to support.
“I think it’s great, because you get an actual opportunity to participate in the process,” said Cari Dicke, an Obama supporter and the Precinct 11 captain.
Many voters chose to wear stickers declaring whether they were in support of either Obama or Clinton.
A good deal of time was spent going over Colorado caucus rules. This state has not traditionally entered the presidential selection process so early in the year. Though most were happy to be participating, they were also focused on learning the process.
“There has been a lot of explaining because people aren’t that familiar with it,” Dicke said.
The next step for those chosen as delegates is to attend the March 15 county convention at the Colorado School of Mines.
“You carry the vote for your candidate,” Parker said.
The caucus at Dakota Ridge was a first glimpse at what many predict will be an exciting election.
“It’s exciting,” Lambden said. “I see people I know, and it’s going to be fun to get it started. I’m excited to go home and watch TV tonight to see how it turns out. The politics of it are really interesting.”
Contact Matt Gunn at email@example.com.