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Ted Cruz continues winning ways in Colorado

April 8, 2016 Updated: April 9, 2016 at 7:40 am
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Chaos ruled the day at the Colorado Republican Party's congressional district assemblies Friday.

The hallways in The DoubleTree hotel's conference center were packed so full no one could move.

Donald Trump supporters were peddling "Make America Great" merchandise.

The politically powerful Rocky Mountain Gun Owners gave away a Smith & Wesson Series 1911 handgun.

Candidates for U.S. Senate were glad-handing the crowd.

And, of course, those hoping to get a ticket to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July made 20-second pitches to the delegates from across the state.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz continued his run, picking up 12 delegates to add to the nine he had already won in Colorado. Neither front-runner Trump, nor Ohio Gov. John Kasich have won a single delegate.

Colorado's presidential nominating system is a rare beast.

Republican voters in the state have never voted for who they prefer for the presidential nomination.

Instead, GOP voters gathered in small precinct meetings on March 1 and elected delegates to represent them at increasingly larger events. Friday featured the final congressional district assemblies, which will send 21 delegates to the National Convention.

On Saturday, delegates to the state-wide assembly will elect another 13 delegates. Three delegate seats go to party leaders.

Cruz is expected to speak to the assembly at The Broadmoor World Arena in the afternoon. Tickets to the event to the general public are sold out. Trump isn't coming but may send a surrogate. Former U.S. Sen. John Sununu from New Hampshire will speak for Kasich.

"It shows Donald Trump and John Kasich that Coloradans want a proven conservative," said 18-year-old Joel Crank, who became a delegate to for Cruz Friday. "It's been a lot of work. I've probably put in at least 5 hours to 6 hours of work a day on top of school."

Crank said he called and emailed hundreds of delegates before Friday asking for their support.

"I'm beside myself to go to Cleveland," said Crank, the son of local radio personality Jeff Crank.

Others are skeptical that Cruz's resounding victories reflect the will of Colorado voters at large and not just an incredibly well-organized campaign that navigated the complicated caucus process with boots on the ground.

Former state Rep. Amy Stephens, who works on Kasich's Colorado campaign, is in that camp.

"With the types of people that are elected at the caucus level, I wouldn't expect a different result," Stephens said. "In the broader Republican world, I think it's a different story."

Stephens said Kasich isn't out of the race yet.

"This is going to be an open convention," Stephens said. "Kasich figured that out a long time ago."

She cited aggregate polling data from RealClearPolitics.com that shows Kasich in a general election Kasich is up 6 percentage points on Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. Neither Trump or Cruz lead in head-to-head polls on RealClearPolitics.

"We will lose Congress, we will lose the Senate with either of these two guys," Stephens said. "So we are just staying on the train."

Randolph Licht and William Felts are both running Saturday to be national delegates one for Cruz and one unpledged on Saturday.

They were debating Friday about the role the rules committee will play at a brokered convention and how it could keep Kasich out of the race.

"Based on the current Republican National Committee rules, this is a two-way race," Licht said, noting the current rules require a delegate win eight states to get on the ballot at the convention.

"Those are actually temporary," Felts said. "Until the rules are adopted at the convention."

"Well, not exactly," Licht said. "They are now revisited."

"They'll change it," Felts said.

"No," Licht said. "The week before the convention, 100 people meet and consider whether to keep the exact same rules we have now or to change them effective now, or four years from now. That committee of 100 people only suggests the changes. Then the full body of 2,400 votes."

Felts says the full body will want to let other candidates on the ballot. Licht says no way.

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Contact Megan Schrader: 286-0644

Twitter @CapitolSchrader

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