In the race to the White House, Democrat Bernie Sanders surged to victory last night in the Colorado caucus, along with Vermont, Oklahoma and Minnesota. Colorado has a growing Latino population, who make up nearly 15 percent of eligible voters in the States. Most of them are registered Democrats. Caucuses in Colorado are open only to registered party members, and the state added nearly 30,000 registered Democrats in recent months, some of whom reportedly joined the party so they could caucus for Sanders. We go to Denver, Colorado, for an update from Corey Hutchins, journalist for The Colorado Independent, a nonprofit digital news outlet in Denver, and Dulce Saenz, a Mexican immigrant who is the Colorado state director with the Bernie Sanders campaign. We are also joined by Donna Murch, associate professor of history at Rutgers University.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: In the race to the White House, Democrat Bernie Sanders surged to victory last night in the Colorado caucus, along with Vermont, Oklahoma and Minnesota. Colorado has a growing Latino population, who make up nearly 15 percent of eligible voters in the state. Most of them are registered Democrats. Erika Andiola, the national Latina press secretary for Sanders, spoke to Democracy Now! last night outside of the Sanders victory party in Denver.
ERIKA ANDIOLA: Here, the Latino community is learning more and more about Bernie Sanders. We started at a disadvantage. Obviously, you know, we had an opponent that has been very well known within the Latino community, but who didn’t have the Latino community entirely on her side. And I think Bernie, every time he speaks, every time that he comes out, and the more and more momentum we gain, the more Latinos are able to learn who he is and the message that he brings. And more and more Latinos are getting tired of the establishment. They’re getting tired of the politics that are continuing to – you know, getting us stuck. We can’t get immigration reform. We can’t get so many changes in our healthcare system, in our education system, and that is because of the establishment politics. And Latinos are seeing it more and more. And they are definitely “feeling the Bern.”
AMY GOODMAN: Erika Andiola, the national Latina press secretary for Sanders. Caucuses in Colorado are open only to registered party members. The state added nearly 30,000 registered Democrats in recent months, some of whom reportedly joined the party so they could caucus for Sanders.
Well, for more, we’re going directly to the Denver Open Media Center in Colorado, where we’re joined by two guests. Corey Hutchins is a journalist for The Colorado Independent, a nonprofit digital news outlet in Denver. And Dulce Saenz, the Colorado state director with the Bernie Sanders campaign. Still with us in New York, Donna Murch, associate professor of history at Rutgers.
Dulce Saenz, can you talk about this victory – it’s one of four that Bernie Sanders had in the country last night on Super Tuesday – and why you think he won in Colorado?
DULCE SAENZ: Absolutely. We are so incredibly excited that we won Colorado. You know, Coloradans have a spirit of pioneering. It’s part of our history here in Colorado. And, you know, currently, we see about a third Democrat, a third Republican and a third independent. And so, that division that Sanders is talking about, the independence he’s talking about, you know, is really speaking to Coloradans here.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Corey Hutchins, can you explain how the whole system works in Colorado – I mean, the fact that Republicans weren’t also caucusing for their presidential candidate, and how the Democratic caucus works? I heard it was totally chaotic.
COREY HUTCHINS: Yeah, it was. One woman described it to me last night in a swing county where I watched the caucus, and she called it – she looked around – and this is a retired veteran – and said, “My gosh, this is creative chaos.” More people showed up to these caucuses this year than was expected. I think the estimate we’re hearing is about 120,000, which is about how many came out in 2008 during the Obama-Clinton showdown here in Colorado.
The caucus system, as you said, is only open to registered Democrats. And over 1 million registered voters in Colorado weren’t allowed to participate, because they are unaffiliated voters. It’s a caucus process that is run by the political parties here. The Republicans did have their caucuses here in Colorado last night, but they did not hold a presidential preference straw poll like the Democrats. They essentially just decided to take a pass on Colorado.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Dulce, can you talk about the changing nature of the Colorado population? Clearly, there’s always been a resident longtime Latino community, especially in southern Colorado. But the growth of the Latino community in Colorado, how that’s shaped the political perspectives and the orientation of the Democrats?
DULCE SAENZ: Absolutely. Well, I’m actually an immigrant from Mexico myself and grew up in Weld County, which is about 25 percent Latino. And it’s a county in which we won by a substantial margin, as well. And so we have a strong, you know, Chicano “the border crossed me” population in Colorado, in southern Colorado, southwest, but also an immigrant population, again, in the northeastern plains here in the Front Range, as well as the Western Slope, because of a lot of seasonal job opportunities. And so, it’s certainly a growing demographic and played a significant role for us last night.
AMY GOODMAN: And why do you support Bernie Sanders? How did you make that decision?
DULCE SAENZ: Absolutely. Well, you know, being from a country like Mexico, where you understand the politics and the corruption and the money involved in that government, I am absolutely concerned about the money being spent in elections, even locally. You know, school board elections cost more and more every time, you know, the politics. And I’ve worked in immigration reform, education equity and climate issues, and there’s always – you know, despite the progress we might make on each of these individual issues, there was always something larger – you know, big polluters funding anti – combating climate change policies. And so, Senator Sanders really speaks to some of the systemic issues that we’re facing as a country, which prohibit us from addressing more specific policies.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Donna Murch, I wanted to bring you back into the conversation in terms of how – the takeaway that you would like our viewers and our audience to sum up from last night’s votes?
DONNA MURCH: Well, one thing is, is thinking about the constraints that were faced by the Sanders campaign, things we’ve already talked about, both voter suppression and name recognition. But also, I think one of the most effective parts of Hillary Clinton’s strategy has been to drape herself in Barack Obama’s legacy and to say that “in order to continue Barack Obama’s presidency, it’s necessary to vote for me.” And I think that’s very important. I think that helps to explain some of the efficacy of getting support from African-American voters, but I do not think we should take this as a kind of death knell on black radical politics, seeing the large numbers of votes coming from black millennials, the successes in their outreach among historically black colleges, and also a new kind of coalition that’s bringing together a whole portion of the black left, of academics, also Sanders campaign’s outreach to the $10 minimum wage in Birmingham, so links between black labor, left, academics, millennials and kind of a new generation of people mobilizing around these issues of economic redistribution.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Corey Hutchins, I mean, the entire Democratic leadership, almost across the board, in Colorado was for Hillary Clinton, is that right?
COREY HUTCHINS: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, the entire Democratic congressional delegation in Colorado supports Hillary Clinton – the Democratic governor, John Hickenlooper, here supports Hillary Clinton; former US Secretary of the Interior and US Senator Ken Salazar supports Hillary Clinton; the mayor of Denver; the former mayor of Denver. And yet Hillary Clinton lost to Bernie Sanders here in Colorado by what looks like about 20 points.
This was most evident to me about a week ago, when both campaigns rolled out their legislative endorsements here at the Capitol in Denver. The Sanders campaign – out of a hundred members of the Legislature here, the Sanders campaign could only find three members of the House to come out and stand on the steps and declare their support for Sanders. When they did that, though, they were backed by a hundred excited, sign-waving people clearly, quote, “feeling the Bern.” It was a –
AMY GOODMAN: And this is –
COREY HUTCHINS: You know, it was a rally.
AMY GOODMAN: This is very similar to what happened in New Hampshire – the entire Democratic leadership for Hillary Clinton, and yet Bernie Sanders won. And the Senate is very important now, is that right, Corey Hutchins, in what’s going on now in Colorado?
COREY HUTCHINS: Yeah, sure. There’s a giant, a big race for the US Senate. Michael Bennet is our Democratic senator here. He’s the senior senator here in Colorado. And there are now officially 13 Republican candidates who are looking to take him on in November. Half of them will go through the grassroots caucus process, as they did last night, and the other half are going to petition onto the ballot and kind of take their message outside that grassroots, meat-grinder caucus system, and they’re going to petition directly onto the ballot. And so – and there’s also a pretty closely watched congressional race here in Colorado. Mike Coffman, the Republican congressman from District 6, a suburb of – Arapahoe, a suburb of Denver –
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to continue that on another day, because our time clock is running out. But thank you so much to Corey Hutchins of The Colorado Independent and Dulce Saenz, Colorado state director for the Bernie Sanders campaign, Bernie Sanders who won in Colorado. And Donna Murch of Rutgers University.