New Castle man rallying Garfield County independent voters to ‘caucus’ | PostIndependent.com

New Castle man rallying Garfield County independent voters to ‘caucus’

Randy Fricke

Building on a national movement to involve unaffiliated voters more in the political process and possibly draft independent candidates to run for office, a Garfield County activist is calling on unattached voters here to come out and caucus.

Registered Democrats and Republicans are set to hold their formal party caucuses next Tuesday, March 6, soon followed by the county party assemblies and state party conventions.

It's the first step in the process to nominate candidates for the November elections, where elected offices from the county level all the way up to Colorado governor, state House and Senate seats, and the 3rd District Congressional seat will be decided.

But this very early stage in the process leaves out the nearly 13,000 registered voters in Garfield County who don't align with either of the two major parties.

“We need to everyone contribute their opinions to this discussion. We need to hear from the left, right and the middle. We need to discuss, where do we go from here?”

— Randy Fricke

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New Castle resident Randy Fricke, a former Glenwood Springs Post Independent columnist, is trying to change that. He's organizing what's believed to be the first-ever "independent voter town hall/caucus meeting" on March 22. The 1 p.m. gathering will take place at the Glenwood Springs Library.

"All registered independent [unaffiliated] voters from Garfield and surrounding counties are invited to attend," Fricke said.

The purpose is to explore the potential of independent voters creating an impact on the upcoming elections this year and in 2020, and to explore the opportunities for independents to run for local, state and national elected offices.

Longer term, it's a starting point to explore a path for an independent candidate to run for president in 2020, Fricke said.

Unaffiliated voters in Colorado will have more clout in this year's election cycle. Following voter approval of a 2016 state ballot measure, voters who aren't registered with either major party will now be able to vote in the statewide party primaries on June 26. Unaffiliated voters will still have to pick and choose as far as which primary to vote in, but it's a huge step for supporters of open primaries.

"We as independents must no longer sit on the sidelines and let the Democratic and Republican parties dictate the fate of our political future," Fricke said.

He noted that unaffiliated voters represent 47 percent of the registered voters in the United States. In Colorado, about a third of registered voters are unaffiliated, and in Garfield County unaffiliated voters outnumber both Republicans (9,800 registered voters as of late January), and Democrats (approximately 7,000).

"We need independents to run for office," Fricke adds. "Independents can be the best alternative to the candidates of the corrupt political establishment. Independents can play a strong role in cleaning up our election system."

Personally, Fricke said he believes the major parties represent the "political industrial complex," consisting of Super PACs, corporations and special interest lobbying groups.

Fricke acknowledged that unaffiliated voters can run the gamut from disenfranchised voters on the far right to those on the far left, as well as those who just don't want to be attached to a specific party.

"We need to everyone contribute their opinions to this discussion," he said of the upcoming meeting. "We need to hear from the left, right and the middle. We need to discuss, where do we go from here?"

The gathering is also intended to assess opportunities for would-be independent candidates to petition onto the November ballot.

"I believe that there are lots of people out there who are so disgusted with the current political establishment that they will sign petitions for independent candidates," Fricke added. "Building support for independent candidates at this time could unify people, communities and even states."

Republican and Democratic party officials have acknowledged the influence unaffiliated voters could have on the candidate selection process this year.

The governor's race in particular, which currently includes a long list of both Republican and Democratic hopefuls, is likely to bring unaffiliated voters into the process, Dave Merritt, longtime Garfield County Republican Central Committee member and former party chairman, acknowledged in a recent interview.

"I think it does mean that the candidates will have to appeal to more than just the base of the party itself," Merritt said. "You've got to be able to appeal beyond that if you're going to get those votes."

Fricke said he hopes the independent voters meetings will continue every month leading up to the November election, "as we work to raise awareness and build support for independent candidates."