The Death of Colorado Political Parties?

By Joe Webb

The Republican Party in Colorado is gearing up now for its’ biennial reorganizational meetings at the state and county level.  One of the more contentious issues within the state GOP is whether the GOP will have closed or open primaries per the dictates of the 2016 election’s Proposition 108.  Many are taking sides both for and against an open primary.  That controversy could very well become yesterday’s battle sooner than most realize.

I attended a luncheon recently where one of the speakers asked how people in the room would feel if elections were held in Colorado without partisan labels attached to candidates.  It is an interesting idea.  The speaker mentioned that such an idea is being discussed.  We already have non-partisan municipal elections in Colorado but to propose having them statewide would have many repercussions. The devil is of course in the details but a few obvious implications from such a proposal stand out.

The role of political parties in the Colorado electoral process would be obliterated.  That means if no one has a partisan label in a general election then there would not be partisan political primaries.  I would imagine if there is a primary it would be a free for all jungle primary where perhaps the top two Democrats and progressives advance to the general election rather than the winner of the Democrat and Republican primaries do now.

The change, if any, in signature requirements for both statewide offices and local legislative races would also merit observation by interested parties.  Personally, I would prefer a lower signature requirement to petition onto the ballot.  Better yet would be the elimination of the signature requirement completely in order to run for office.  Just pay a filing fee like 5 percent of the salary of the office you seek to gain access to the primary ballot.

The vacancy committee where political parties choose the successor when one elected official moves on would no doubt be abolished in favor of special elections to fill vacant public offices.  Why would a political party be granted the right to choose the successor to a non-partisan elected official?

Given the opinion that many have of political parties, any proposal that weakens the already weak role that political parties have in the Colorado election process would be popular with voters.  I favor the grass roots.  I’m a fan of kitchen table politics.  I do not know what shape this final proposal if made will take.  What I do know is that citizen involvement in the electoral process is essential to preserving our Republic.  Ordinary citizens need to feel as if they are stakeholders in the process.  If they do not feel like they can impact the process of government in their lives that can lead to unfortunate consequences.  Any sort of proposal that hampers the involvement of ordinary citizens regardless of their political persuasion should be rejected.  Involvement by ordinary citizens should be made easier.  My suggestion above regarding signature requirements for office would be a good place to start in that regard.  Any proposal about non-partisan statewide elections will be far more consequential to our state than whether or not the Republican Party has an open or closed primary.  

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About the Author:

Joe Webb is the former Chairman of the Jefferson County Republican Party.