The Crestone Eagle, March 2008:
Dems. vote Obama—but Crestone caucus delegate selection process challenged
by Matie Belle Lakish
It was hard to miss the enthusiasm of the local democrats who attended the Democratic Caucus in numbers probably not seen in Crestone since mining days. It is estimated that around 150 people attended the caucus on February 5. Every corner of the POA Hall was stuffed with Democrats eager for a chance to vote for change in Washington. In the days since the caucus, however, a disagreement over how delegates to the Saguache County Democratic Assembly were selected has kept District 5’s votes for presidential and senate candidates from being officially tallied and accepted, and has led to a challenge to the seating of the 14 delegates.
As voters arrived at the POA Hall on the evening of the caucus, Esther Grant, Saguache County Democratic Chair, verified Democratic voters in the county rolls, while Lisa Cyriacks handed voters specially marked papers. Darrel Grant read the caucus rules. Tamar Ellentuck was then elected to chair the meeting, and Michael Scully was selected as secretary.
After campaign speeches for presidential nominees by the audience, Ellentuck called for a vote and counted the show of hand-held papers. The unofficial vote was Obama—116, Clinton—19, Uncommitted—10. For U.S. Senate candidate the vote was Udall—108, Benson—3, and Uncommitted—2. Since the rules stated that a candidate had to receive 15% of the vote in order to have a delegate at the County Assembly, all of the fourteen delegates from District 5 were committed to Obama and Udall. Ellentuck checked the rules again and emphasized to the audience that the delegates to the county assembly must all commit to represent the caucus participants by voting for Obama and Udall.
It was during the selection of the fourteen delegates to the county assembly that disagreements arose. Many people hoped to cast a vote for a county commissioner candidate. When voters learned that commissioner candidates were to be chosen at the Saguache County Democratic Assembly by the delegates voting there, it shed new light on the importance of the delegates. Lisa Cyriacks suggested that a preference poll for county commissioner be conducted to determine how many present in the room supported Pace and how many supported Grant.
Sam Pace suggested nominating the 14 delegates and 14 alternates. Esther Grant suggested appointing seven for Chuck Grant, and seven for Pace. Many in the audience felt this would not reflect the intentions of the voters. Lisa Cyriacks then suggested taking volunteers, stating that was the method used in the past. The group decided to follow Lisa’s suggestion, and 29 people volunteered. Several voters suggested that potential delegates state who they were likely to support for the two County Commissioner seats. Ellentuck, as well as Esther Grant, reminded the voters that selected delegates were not obligated or committed to vote for any particular nominee for County Commissioner.
One voter asked again, “Can the delegates be obligated to vote for the commissioners that they declare tonight?” Esther Grant said no. Voters again requested an informal survey. Ellentuck then wrote the names of all prospective delegates on a flipchart, with their preference for County Commissioner, including uncommitted, initialed beside their name. Josh Hillman suggested an up or down vote for the delegate candidates, with each person voting fourteen times. Ellentuck says, “The 14 delegates with the highest numbers were appointed as regular delegates, the next 14 as alternates, and notes were kept, both by the Secretary and myself, to record the votes.” Of the 14 who received the greatest number of votes and were therefore declared delegates, most expressed an interest in voting for Sam Pace and Mike Spearman for commissioners.
Since the caucus, Lisa Cyriacks and Chuck Grant have submitted letters challenging the results of that election. They contend that the 14 delegates to the Saguache County Assembly were not validly chosen because their selection was based on the County Commissioners race rather than the U.S. Senate race as required by Colorado Democratic Party rules. “Some of the people in that room,” Cyriacks stated, “wanted to support Chuck Grant for Commissioner, and their voice will not be heard at the assembly.
Chuck Grant writes, “Mr. Pace attempted to control the meeting prior to the delegate selection process and Ms.Ellentuck allowed him considerable autonomy in his efforts to do so. I am asking that Saguache Co. Democratic Party review the above mentioned disruptive tactics.”
Ms. Ellentuck said she was surprised to hear Sam’s comments referred to as disruptive tactics, noting that both Mr. and Mrs. Grant also offered opinions and suggestions to her throughout the evening.
Democratic County Chairman, Esther Grant (wife of Charles Grant) has appointed a Credentials Committee to hear the protests. Discussion within the local community suggests a conflict of interest. When asked whether Esther Grant should recuse herself in this situation, Cyriacks said, “Esther has no independent decision making power of her own. Her role is getting the committee together and making sure both sides are heard.” An email from William C. Compton, Political Director, Colorado Democratic Party, says, “The decision of the Saguache Credentials Committee will be the final decision.” State party rules on running such hearings, however, are vague, and Esther Grant is devising the hearing rules. The Credentials Committee will have five members, two chosen by each candidate and the fifth presumably chosen by Esther Grant.
Grant says, “The Credentials Committee meeting will be open to the public. Any organization that wants to monitor the proceedings may attend; they are most welcome. Only witnesses will be allowed to speak, and nobody will be allowed to disrupt the meeting.” Both Cyriacks and Chuck Grant have submitted lists of witnesses. It is unclear at this time whether Sam Pace or anyone else will be able to submit witnesses. Pace says, “I think it should be up to the Credentials Committee to decide who gets to speak at the hearing, not the chair of Saguache County.” The hearing is March 4, 6:30pm, at the POA Hall.
At issue is whether the elected delegates from District 5 will be seated at the Democratic Assembly. This could impact Crestone’s representation at the county level, Pace or Grant’s position on the primary ballot in August, and the future of Saguache County’s democratic process. Please attend this Democratic Assembly on Sunday, March 9. There is a potluck at 12:30 with the meeting to follow. Although only seated delegates can vote, you do not have to be a delegate to attend.
Crestone caucus results protested
by M. Esther Grant, Chair,
Saguache Cnty. Democrats
Two protests have been received by Saguache County Democratic Party objecting to the procedures used to elect delegates to the County Assembly for Saguache County Commissioner position in District 5.
After consultation with the Democratic State Party, a Credentials Committee will be appointed to hear the protests. The committee will be composed of two Sam Pace supporters, two Charles Grant supporters and an objective person that is a registered Democrat and does not reside in precinct 5. Fifteen persons have been contacted to determine their interest in serving on the committee. The meeting will be held on March 4 at 6:30pm. Hopefully it will be at POA hall but location has not been finalized.
As Chair of Saguache County Democratic party, I have been in contact with Sam Pace and Charles Grant to inform them of my efforts to resolve the challenges filed by two registered Democrats who were in attendance at the precinct caucus. Please feel free to call me if you need clarification.