Weld Democrats face tough challenge in Republican-dominated county
April 1, 2014
Running for office in arguably the strongest Republican county in the state can be a daunting task for a Democrat.
State Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley, knows what it's like to feel like the lone wolf. Young is the only Democrat in Weld County in the state legislature, but he doesn't let it bother him in the House District 50 that he represents.
"I don't see it that way. I work really closely across the aisle with people," Young said. "I don't see that division like a lot of other people do. A lot of the bills I carry are ones that I work with Republicans to pass, and I work with the county commissioners."
He added, "(Former state Rep.) Jim Riesberg really showed how to represent this district well. He went out and knocked on doors, attended events, had town halls and worked hard to represent his constituency over the seven years that he was a representative for 50. I watched him closely and have to the best of my ability done similar kinds of things."
Young said Weld Republicans are attracting a lot of attention this election year because of their primary June 24.
"They've got a primary. We don't have primaries," said Young, who is running against Isaia Aricayos in House District 50 in November. "We've got strong candidates that have performed well, and people are excited about the work we've done as Democrats. We know the registration is really kind of a third, a third and a third. If you can get out, work hard and listen carefully to the constituency and make sure you're representing them, you can be successful in the race."
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He added, "I think what convinces people to choose a party is which party is actually trying to solve a problem. Are we really focused on the issues that people care about, and do we have a legitimate solution for that problem? Clearly, my opinion is the Democrats have good solutions but we're not the only voice in the room. People want a solution and they're not really too concerned about what party necessarily brings that forward."
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., joked at the Weld County Democratic Assembly last week that he's heard Weld County is a Republican county.
"It doesn't keep me from coming back over and over again," Bennet said. "It's a challenge, but we've got to fight for every vote in every county in the state. I spend a lot of time in counties where I'll never get more than 25 percent of the vote. I'm not that partisan of a person."
Joe Perez, who is running against Weld County Sheriff John Cooke in Scott Renfroe's vacant District 13 state Senate, hopes that the Democrats will make some noise in November.
"It obviously is pretty much a Republican county, but I think it's starting to break," Perez said. "I think there is some awareness and Democrats are taking more pride. Certainly, I'm aware of that. I'd rather run than concede the seat."
He added, "I'm optimistic because of the 51st state. I think there are some moderate Independents who are reasonable, and not from the extreme. I think we can present ideas that are moderate and appealing, and not so divisive, and that's what I'm going to work on. I think we've had a lot of divisiveness and a lot of bad language, and I want to overcome that and unite us."
Weld County Democratic chairwoman Patricia Bruner is pleased with the Democratic candidates who are running.
"I think we have excellent candidates. I believe that we feel we're on the right side of the issues," Bruner said.
The Democrats were outnumbered during the March 4 caucus turnout, but Perez said it was because the Republicans had several candidates running for the same position and each candidate brought their own delegation.
It doesn't help the Democrats in Weld County that three of the four Republican candidates in the 4th Congressional District for the June 24 primary are from Weld — Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer, Weld District Attorney Ken Buck and Renfroe — and they've dominated the headlines and attention over the past month.
"I call it a coronation. They're lining up," Perez said.
Young goes back to the primary that's causing the attention.
"If we had a primary, we'd be in the headlines, too. There would be controversy," Young said.
Dustin Urban, who is running for the first time and is a candidate for House District 63, admits that it isn't easy running as a Democrat in Weld County.
"It is definitely an uphill battle," Urban said. "I just really need to get out there and let people know my character and what kind of candidate I can be as their representative. The history of the seat that I'm running for right now, I don't think I was able to find a Democratic candidate that's held that seat. You judge, but I'm optimistic."