Colorado’s “messy” caucus, marijuana intrigues Middle Eastern visitors

Video: A visit to Colorado.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams talks to international visitors Wednesday.
Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams talks to international visitors Wednesday.

Twelve international visitors on Wednesday peppered Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams about everything from marijuana to the “messy” precinct caucuses they observed the night before.

Back in their Middle Eastern countries, they are professors, bureaucrats, candidates and such. They hailed from a variety of countries, including Algeria, Kuwait and Tunisia. Some asked Williams questions in English; others relied on three three Arabic language interpreters.

The visitors were part of the International Visitor Leadership Program, which is under the U.S. Department of State. They also visited the state Capitol.

Palestinian Majed Bamya, who works for the the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, noted that he and has colleagues watched Coloradans caucus Tuesday night.

“It was quite messy,” he told Williams, sharing the the same assessment of many Colorado voters who participated.

“Are you implicated in this messiness?”

Read moreColorado’s “messy” caucus, marijuana intrigues Middle Eastern visitors

Hey, hey, Paula, the state’s elections office will be missing you

Paula Barnett's last day at the Colorado Secretary of State's office is Friday. She is going to work for Chaffee County Clerk Lori Mitchell.
Paula Barnett’s last day at the Colorado Secretary of State’s office is Friday. She is going to work for Chaffee County Clerk Lori Mitchell.

By Keara Brosnan

Paula Barnett, a much respected staffer with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, is taking her elections experience to Chaffee County in order to be near her family.

Barnett’s last day with the state is Friday. She’ll begin working for Chaffee County Clerk Lori Mitchell on March 14.

“It will be fun to be with my daughter and her husband and her two beautiful daughters in the mountains,” said Barnett, who will live in Buena Vista and commute to Salida.

Secretary of State Wayne Williams understands her sentiment.

“As our first grandchild will be born later this month,” he said, “I certainly appreciate Paula’s desire to be near family.”

Barnett got her start in the Lincoln County clerk and recorder’s office’s,  and eventually was elected clerk.

“I sort of grew into it,” Barnett said. “Living in Hugo, which was a very small community and very grass roots, I got very involved in elections and the political process and caucuses.”

Read moreHey, hey, Paula, the state’s elections office will be missing you

Ghosts of Colorado caucuses past, from nuns to a naked boy

The year was 2008 and interest in Colorado’s quirky and confusing precinct caucus system reached a zenith thanks to the presidential race, especially on the Democratic side.

Precinct co-chair Jamie Laurie counts votes for Hillary Clinton at one of 15 causes at East High School on Feb. 5, 2008. Barack Obama's supporters outnumbered Clinton supporters 1,033 to 394 in the 15 precincts. (Rocky Mountain News/
Fifteen Democratic caucuses were held at East High School on Feb. 5, 2008. Barack Obama’s supporters outnumbered Hillary Clinton supporters 1,033 to 394 in the 15 precincts. (Rocky Mountain News/Western History/Genealogy Dept., Denver Public Library)

As a  political reporter for the Rocky Mountain News, I asked a variety of politicos — from then-City Auditor Dennis Gallagher to U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard to former First Lady Wilma Webb — about their precinct caucus experiences.

With Colorado Republicans and Democrats holding their precinct caucuses tonight, here’s that 2008 story:

Ah, there’s nothing like memories of caucuses past

By Lynn Bartels, Rocky Mountain News

The famed astronaut. The naked boy. The chocolate frosting. And don’t forget the nuns and the no-shows.

Read moreGhosts of Colorado caucuses past, from nuns to a naked boy

From leadership to liberty: Secretary Wayne Williams takes part

By Keara Brosnan

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams was the keynote speaker Saturday at the Otero County Lincoln Day Dinner. (Photo by Jace Ratzlaff)
Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams delivered the keynote address Saturday at the Otero County Lincoln Day Dinner. (Photo by Jace Ratzlaff)

Saturday was a Wayne Williams kind of day.

In the morning, the Colorado secretary of state attended the Leadership Program of the Rockies’ annual retreat in Colorado Springs where he met a Medal of Honor recipient. That evening, he delivered the keynote address at the Otero County Lincoln Day Dinner in La Junta.

Williams’ next local speaking engagement is Tuesday when he will address the DTC Kiwanis Club. The breakfast at Mimi’s in Lone Tree begins at 7 a.m.

Williams thanked Otero County Republicans for helping him win the secretary of state’s race in 2014. He received 54 percent of the vote in Otero County compared to Democrat Joe Neguse’s 33 percent. Statewide, Williams beat Neguse by 2.2 percentage points.

“I have fought for our right to vote in the legislature and on the ground level. I care deeply about our right to vote and protecting the integrity of our election processes,” he said. “That’s why I chose to run for Colorado secretary of state.”

Read moreFrom leadership to liberty: Secretary Wayne Williams takes part

Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia: one tough cookie

Far be it from a snowboarding wipeout to stop Lt. Joe Garcia from performing a variety of duties.

Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia talks to the University of Colorado Board of Regents with a sling on his injured shoulder. (Michael Carrigan photo)
Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia talks to the University of Colorado Board of Regents with a sling on his injured shoulder. (Michael Carrigan photo)

The crash happened on Feb. 13 in the Grand Tetons when Garcia was snowboarding with his youngest son. Garcia couldn’t get in to see a surgeon until nearly a week later, on Feb. 19, to repair his separated shoulder and torn ligaments.

“I’m still staying pretty busy,” said Garcia, who doubles as Colorado’s lieutenant governor and director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education, posts he plans to give up before July 1.

Garcia had planned the trip to Wyoming to see his 26-year-old son Jose a long time ago. “My youngest son was telling me how great the snowboarding was,” Garcia said. The trip turned out to be on the same day as the Colorado Democratic Party’s Jefferson Jackson dinner, which is why Garcia missed speeches by presidential contenders Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

“But we ended up in a bad situation,” he said today of the outing. “It was unbelievably foggy whiteout conditions where we couldn’t even see the ground I was standing on. It was very disorienting. ”

Garcia said he didn’t even know he was falling until he hit the icy ground “so hard” he realized right away that his shoulder was “popped.”