Cary Kennedy earns big win as candidates pitch Denver Democrats’ assembly

By winning the most delegates, Kennedy is ensuring more of her supporters will join the state assembly next month and vote for her — increasing her chances of appearing on the primary ballot.

Democrat Cary Kennedy (right) waits before speaking to the Denver Democrats 2018 County Assembly on Saturday, March 24, at South High School. (Esteban L. Hernandez/Denverite)
Cary Kennedy speaks to Denver County delegates on March 24, 2018, at South High School.
Cary Kennedy speaks to Denver County delegates on March 24, 2018, at South High School. Esteban L. Hernandez / Denverite

Four gubernatorial candidates made their pitch to Democrats in Denver during the County Assembly Saturday at South High School, but continuing her momentum from precinct caucuses earlier this month, Cary Kennedy once again ran away with a preference poll among delegates.

Kennedy received 638 votes (61 percent) from delegates during Saturday’s preference polls, more than double the total of the second-place finisher, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, who received 219 (21 percent). The results of the preference poll were provided by an observer.

Mike Johnston had a poor showing, earning only 144 ballots. Erik Underwood fared even worse, earning just 4 delegate votes, which was significantly less than the 36 delegates who voted as uncommitted.

By winning the most delegates, Kennedy is ensuring more of her supporters will join the state assembly next month and vote for her — increasing her chances of appearing on the primary ballot.

Erik Underwood addresses delegates on March 24, 2018, at South High School.
Erik Underwood addresses delegates on March 24, 2018, at South High School.

The results Saturday actually improve upon her earlier caucus results. She earned 55 percent of votes in Denver County’s precinct caucus preference poll on March 6.

Notably absent Saturday was Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, who, like Johnston and Polis, has submitted petitions to appear in party’s primary. Johnston’s showing at Saturday’s Assembly isn’t necessarily a blow to his campaign; he’s already qualified to ballot through the petitioning process. Candidates are allowed to participate in both options.

A man stands up and applauds Cary Kennedy after she spoke to delegates on March 24, 2018, at South High School.
A man stands up and applauds Cary Kennedy after she spoke to delegates on March 24, 2018, at South High School.

Candidates were allowed a few minutes to speak to delegates before votes were cast. Kennedy supporters were in a full frenzy after she spoke, foreshadowing her eventual win.

“Thank you, Denver Democrats,” Kennedy said, before touching on the ongoing March for Our Lives demonstrations. “My daughter walked out. She is marching. It is shameful that your elected leaders have not banned military-style assault weapons in this country.”

Kennedy said she wants to make sure all residents benefit from the number-one ranked economy in the country. Among her three biggest focuses include improving education, keeping healthcare accessible and preserving open spaces.

“I will not let Donald Trump and the Republicans in Congress take our state backwards,” Kennedy said. “We have a line on this campaign. You guys have heard it. ‘What happens in Washington, stays in Washington.’”

Polis called out Trump and Vice President Mike Pence during his remarks.
Volunteers turn ballot boxes over to show they're empty on March 24, 2018, at South High School.
Volunteers turn ballot boxes over to show they’re empty on March 24, 2018, at South High School.

Polis, who brought along his son Caspian to help greet voters, started out his remarks by calling out President Trump. He said he will serve Colorado for the remainder of his term in Congress to hold Trump accountable for his “attacks” on the environment, public schools and healthcare.

Polis said he’s proud of being the first openly-gay parent in Congress. He noted he could make history by being the first openly-gay governor in the country, before calling out the vice president (who’s known for his anti-gay views).

“Take that, Mike Pence!” Polis said, earning applause and cheers from the crowd.

Colorado’s next governor needs to have the experience and record to lead the state in the future, Polis said. They also need to be able to stand up to Trump’s policies.

Citing his past experience with starting businesses, Polis said he hopes to make it easier for companies to share ownership and profits with employees. He also supports raising the minimum wage and stands with people in the “organized labor movement” and said he will support single-payer healthcare.

He concluded his remarks with the help from his son, who said, “Vote for Jared Polis.”

Johnston focused on his experience as a teacher and on March for Our Lives.
Mike Johnston speaks to delegates on March 24, 2018, at South High School.
Mike Johnston speaks to delegates on March 24, 2018, at South High School.

Saturday’s March for Our Lives demonstration was led by a coalition of students and survivors from the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting who are demanding gun reform.

Johnston, a former public school teacher, said seeing students speaking out reminded him of the first time he lost a student to gun violence. He noted that the Columbine shooting, once the worst mass shooting at a school, no longer ranks in the top-ten worst mass shootings in the country.

“I am the only candidate who has fought the NRA and won,” Johnston said. “I will do it again as governor.”

He also recalled a student whose parents had been deported and was unsure where he would sleep that night.

“When you work as a public school teacher and a public school principal, you see all the ways in which the world tries to break children,” Johnston said. “And you also see all the ways in which we, as adults, have a chance to hold them back together.”

If elected, Johnston said he would continue his advocacy for students and work against the privatization of Colorado schools.

 

Esteban L. Hernandez

Author: Esteban L. Hernandez

Esteban L. Hernandez is covering politics and other general assignment topics for Denverite. A native of Aurora, he previously worked at the New Haven Register and Register Citizen in Connecticut. He's a graduate of Hinkley High School in Aurora and the University of Colorado. He can be reached at 303-502-2805, ehernandez@denverite.com or @EstebanHRZ on Twitter.