By Shaun Boyd

DENVER (CBS4) – Colorado Democrats and Republicans came together at party precincts across the state to debate who should be the next governor of Colorado.

This is the first gubernatorial race in 20 years where there are competitive primaries on both sides.

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Precinct caucuses are small gatherings of party faithful that have an outsized impact on who makes the ballot.  You don’t go, you don’t get a say.

Colorado Governor Race: Young Voters Turn Out For Caucuses

“Which means you let me and all my friends and all of the other people out there who are going to go because we are committed. We’re going make decision for you,” says Gary Sulley, who’s been attending democratic caucuses for more than 50 years.

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“It’s the beginning of process of putting people on the ballot,” said Joshua Scharf, a die-hard Republican caucus goer.

Both say this year is unlike any other.

“Now I think there’s a greater sense of trying to appeal to the center,” Scharf said.

That’s because this year – for the first time – unaffiliated voters will get primary ballots. It’s lead many candidates to petition on the ballot so they don’t have to appeal to the far right or far left who caucus.

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“It gives you a little more street cred to go through caucus process than petition on,” said Scharf who added not to dismiss these neighborhood gatherings.

It’s not just the governor’s race at stake, but the balance of power in the state legislation.

“What the state house does has far greater impact on my everyday life than what happenes on a national scene,” said Sulley. But, he says the national scene will drive turnout, “Increase the interest in Democratic politics predominately for a reaction to what the results were in 2016 election, so you see this across the board where huge numbers people showing up Democratic side.”

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The purpose of the caucuses is to elect delegates to the county assemblies and eventually the state assembly.

More than a dozen people are running for governor. Four Republicans are going through the caucus process and three are petitioning on.

Most of the Democrats are doing both. Unlike Republicans, Democrats will conduct a straw poll at their precincts to determine how the delegates are doled out among the candidates, which will provide insight on who has momentum.

Democratic caucus locations: https://www.coloradodems.org/caucus-locations/

Republican caucus locations: http://caucus.cologop.org/

Shaun Boyd is CBS4’s political specialist. She’s a veteran reporter with more than 25 years of experience. Follow her on Twitter @cbs4shaun.

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