After Elizabeth Warren Office Opening, Colorado’s 2020 Primary Is Shifting Into Gear

Supporters of Senator Elizabeth Warren's presidential campaign gathered to celebrate the opening of her Denver office on December 11, 2019.
Supporters of Senator Elizabeth Warren's presidential campaign gathered to celebrate the opening of her Denver office on December 11, 2019. Chase Woodruff
Ann Meisel, a retired public-school teacher from Denver, has nothing but praise for Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts and one of the top contenders for her party’s 2020 presidential nomination. Warren has the best shot, Meisel says, not only at defeating President Donald Trump, but at enacting the “radical changes” that she feels are necessary. But in a crowded primary field, how does she plan on convincing other Colorado voters to feel the same way?

“I think we have to work our butts off,” Meisel says with a laugh. “I think we have to work very hard. Because right now, I think corporate America and large money are pouring funds into white males, and I haven’t seen them do a whole lot for me in my lifetime.”

Meisel and dozens of other Warren supporters gathered at the campaign’s new Denver office on December 11 to hear from campaign staff and undergo volunteer trainings. Along with another Warren office opening the same night in Colorado Springs, it’s the first official on-the-ground presence in Colorado for a 2020 Democratic presidential campaign. But that won’t be the case for long.

“We’re so incredibly happy to have you here as a part of this fight, a part of this movement,” PaaWee Rivera, Warren for President’s Colorado state director, told the crowd. “We want to make sure to thank you all in advance for all the long nights, all the cold pizza and day-old coffee that you’re going to drink.”

Along with twelve other states, Colorado will hold a presidential primary election on “Super Tuesday,” March 3, 2020, giving Colorado voters the chance to make their voices heard relatively early in the nominating process. And because of the state’s mail-in ballot system, the first votes to be cast are less than two months away, with most Coloradans likely receiving their ballots in the days following the New Hampshire primary on February 11.

All major Democratic presidential candidates — seventeen in all — filed to appear on the Colorado primary ballot before the December 9 deadline, the Secretary of State’s Office announced last week. But the battle for the 67 delegates up for grabs in Colorado on March 3 will likely come down to a smaller group of contenders.

Warren and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who hired veteran Democratic operative Pilar Chapa as his state director in May, are the first two 2020 candidates to have paid staff in Colorado. Earlier this month, the Sanders campaign announced that it had also hired Tim Dickson, who managed State Treasurer Dave Young's successful 2018 campaign, as its state field director.

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg's campaign has not yet hired paid staff in Colorado, but is holding regular volunteer-organized events in and around Denver. Former vice president Joe Biden, who has consistently led the primary race in national polling, has had little presence in Colorado so far, though he has hired Denver-based consultant Adam Dunstone as his Midwest and Western political director. Biden visited Denver for a fundraiser at the Phipps Mansion in September, but did not hold a public rally as Sanders and Warren have during their visits here.

Sanders won Colorado's 2016 caucuses by a comfortable margin over eventual Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, and a poll conducted in August showed him with a slight lead over Biden, with Warren not far behind. Together, the primary's two most progressive candidates drew nearly half of Coloradans' support — and if things on the ground are any indication, Sanders's and Warren's calls for transformative change are what has Colorado Democrats most excited as the primary campaign heats up.

"I want somebody who has the knowledge, who has worked, actually, to do things that help ordinary Americans," Meisel says. "And I do agree with the need for some radical changes. It's not working for most of America right now."
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Chase Woodruff is a staff writer at Westword interested in climate change, the environment and money in politics.
Contact: Chase Woodruff