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Rippy column: Colorado primaries are over; now what?

On Tuesday, June 28, Garfield County voters finished turning in their ballots for Colorado primary races, solidifying the roster of candidates for the upcoming mid-term election in November. With the primaries over, what do we do now? Just wait until the stream of candidate and election issue flyers fill our mailboxes daily?

There is no reason to wait until October to find out about the slate of Republican candidates. The Garfield County Republican Executive Committee has prioritized making its website a valuable communication tool for voters. We’ve refreshed the look with streamlined graphic design, included a quick-to-read events calendar, and are consistently adding information about the candidates. Go to garfieldcountyrepublicans.com to learn about candidates’ positions on issues, attend events or contact them personally.

On the homepage, you’ll notice a dynamic new logo along with the tagline that reads: Garfield Republicans Winning Freedom for All. Our party represents a diverse group of individuals of all ages, ethnicities, religious backgrounds and sexual orientations. We encourage robust dialogue on a range of issues. Our mission as we approach the 2022 midterm elections is to restore the American Dream by winning every seat that is up for election in Garfield County.

I am often cited saying that all politics are local. It’s true, and nowhere more so than in a rural county like ours. The people who are running for elected office are, in fact, our neighbors. They put themselves out there because they are drawn to service. I encourage you to read about them on the website, attend an event and ask them questions. If you’re comfortable with the candidate’s position on the issues, I would encourage you to volunteer on their campaign or help them out with a donation.

A person who deserves credit for running a secure and accurate election is Jean Alberico, a Democrat who has served for four terms, as Garfield County Clerk and Recorder. It may come as a surprise that I would tout the accomplishments of a member of an opposing political party, but I call ’em like I see ’em, regardless of affiliation. While other counties experienced anomalies in their elections, Garfield County did not.

Before Jean became Garfield County Clerk, she worked in the clerk’s office under the tutelage of her predecessor, Mildred Alsdorf, a Republican. Similarly, Jackie Harmon, a Republican, is seeking to replace Jean after she retires in 2022. Because Jackie has worked in the office for 20 years, she has all the experience and training for a seamless transition in leadership. With her qualifications, Jackie Harmon is the common-sense choice to be our next county clerk.

One of our greatest civic privileges is the ability to be informed and to vote. Visit the revamped Garfield County GOP website today to get acquainted with the candidates. If you do, come fall, when those election flyers are choking your mailbox, you can toss them in the recycle bin, because you’re already in the know.

Gregg Rippy of Glenwood Springs chairs the Garfield County Republicans and is a former state representative for House District 57.

Final tallies for primary election results in Garfield County

Final primary election tallies from the Garfield County Clerk’s Office on Wednesday reaffirm all wins for House District 57 and Congressional District 3.

There were 13,850 ballots cast out of 36,834 registered voters in Garfield County, for a voter turnout of 37.60%.

In Colorado, unaffiliated voters receive both a Democratic and Republican ballot. They then have the opportunity to fill out one but not both, so their ballots are counted as an active voter within that party. Primary elections were made nonpartisan in Colorado in 2016, Garfield County Clerk Jean Alberico said. 

“Unaffiliated voters are sent ballots for both major parties. The voter must choose one ballot, vote one ballot, and only return one voted ballot,” Alberico said in a Thursday email. “If the unaffiliated voter returned both ballots and both were voted then neither ballot was counted.”

Alberico said 366 votes weren’t counted because those voters sent in both Republican and Democratic ballots. Previous primary elections typically saw between 250-260 votes not counted due to this same issue, Alberico said.

Total ballots cast in the 2020 primary election for Garfield County was 15,060 out of 33,682 active voters, yielding a 44.71% voter turnout.

Total ballots cast in the 2018 primary election for Garfield County was 10,271 out of 31,211 active voters, yielding a 32.91% voter turnout. 

Winning the 2022 House District 57 Democratic primary was Elizabeth Velasco, garnering 2,988 votes over challenger Cole Buerger’s 1,613. Velasco received 64.94% of the vote, while Buerger ended with 35.06%.

Total ballots cast for the HD57 Democratic primary was 4,764 out of 15,358 registered Democratic voters in Garfield County, for a voter turnout of 31.02%.

Velasco faces incumbent Rep. Perry Will, R-New Castle, in the Nov. 8 General Election, who ran unopposed in the GOP primary.

Winning the Congressional District 3 Democratic primary districtwide and locally was Adam Frisch, garnering 2,328 votes in Garfield County. Primary challenger Alex Walker nabbed 593 votes, while Soledad Sandoval Tafoya ended up with 1,654.

Districtwide, Frisch won with 24,961 votes over Walker’s 9,084 and Sandoval’s 23,891.

Frisch faces incumbent Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., of Silt in the Nov. 8 General Election.

Winning the CD3 Republican primary both locally and districtwide was Boebert, garnering 5,222 votes over challenger Don Coram’s 3,810. Boebert’s tally total accounted for 57.82% of the vote, while Coram was 42.18%.

Districtwide, Boebert won with 83,217 votes over Coram’s 43,641.

Aspen’s Adam Frisch likely winner of democratic nomination for CD3

With over 95% of votes counted, Adam Frisch led with roughly 1,300 votes over Soledad Sandoval Tafoya, meaning he will most likely be facing off against Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., this fall.

Frisch, a former Aspen City Council member, told the Post Independent on Tuesday evening that everyone in campaign hustled hard.

“I knew that there was going to be some skepticism from somebody coming from a mountain community and how they could relate to the rural parts of this district,” he said. “Once I had chance to get out on the road and meet people, they understood that I had sincerity and the issues that I think resonated with the voters.”

As of 10:45 p.m. Tuesday, Frisch led Sandoval by less than 3% with 96% of precincts reporting; Frisch had 22,211 votes while Sandoval had 20,883. Alex Walker was a distant third with 8,112 votes.

“My hat goes off to Sol and Alex, especially for bringing a spirited conversation in the Democratic primary,” he said. “They made me better.”

Frisch spent two terms on Aspen City Council, from 2011-18. He earned an undergraduate degree in economics, with an emphases in political science and art history, from the University of Colorado-Boulder.

Now likely to face Boebert in the Nov. 8 General Election, Frisch said Boebert only nabbing 64% of the primary vote is a sign of weakness.

“Loud and embarrassing does not equal strong,” he said. “Lauren Boebert is weak and is going to lose. I think there’s a lot of people out there that want the circus to stop.”

Boebert beats Coram in GOP primary for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District

U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert on Tuesday took a major step toward securing a second term when she easily defeated her Republican primary challenger, state Sen. Don Coram, in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District. 

The Associated Press called the race for Boebert at 7:36 p.m. Boebert was leading Coram with 64% of the vote compared to his 36%.

Coram promised to be a drama-free, get-it-done replacement to Boebert in Washington. But 3rd District GOP voters decided instead by what appeared to be a commanding margin to stay the course with the Garfield County congresswoman, despite all of her controversies, which have helped make Boebert a national Republican figure. 

Boebert raised far more money than Coram heading into the primary election in the 3rd District, which sweeps across 25 counties from the Western Slope into Pueblo and southeast Colorado. She also benefited from about $375,000 in support from outside groups. 

Read the full story here.

The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported news organization dedicated to covering the people, places and policies that matter in Colorado. Read more, sign up for free newsletters and subscribe at coloradosun.com.

Boebert wins Republican, Frisch wins Democratic primaries locally and districtwide

Unofficial elections show Lauren Boebert, R-Silt, and Democrat Adam Frisch ofAspen, have won the Colorado U.S. 3rd Congressional District primaries.

In Garfield County, Bobert nabbed 4,406 votes (57.19% of the vote) over challenger Don Coram’s 3,298 (42.81%). There was a 36.09% turnout amongst the 21,476 registered Republican voters in the county.

Frisch nabbed 1,991 votes (52.48% of the vote) over challengers Soledad Sandoval Tafoya’s 1,130 votes (34.53%) and Alex Walker’s 493 votes (12.99%). There was a 25.71% turnout amongst the 15,358 registered Democratic voters in the county.

 

Elizabeth Velasco nabs HD57 Democratic primary nomination

Colorado House District 57 candidate Elizabeth Velasco won Tuesday’s Democratic primary election with nearly 65% of the vote.

“Tonight, Western Colorado sent a message that our communities want a representative focused on the pressing issues people care about, like cutting the cost of living and helping working people get ahead,” Velasco said Tuesday evening.

Unofficial results show Valsasco nabbed 3,500 votes (64.32% of the vote) over challenger Cole Buerger’s 1,387 (35.68%) for a margin of 1,034 votes. Voter turnout was 26.26% out of 15,358 registered Democratic voters in Garfield County.

“I look forward to being the first Latina and immigrant representing this district,” Velasco said.

Buerger said on Tuesday evening he was proud of his campaign and is now going to solely focus on running his communications firm.

“I am completely focused on my small business and focused on increasing advocacy and fighting for the rights of all Coloradans,” he said. “Our democracy is in trouble.” 

House District 57 Democratic primary election candidate Cole Buerger.
House District 57 Democratic primary election candidate Cole Buerger.

Velsasco now faces HD57 incumbent Rep. Perry Will, R-New Castle, in the Nov. 8 General Election. Will, originally appointed in 2019 after Bob Rankin’s appointment to the Colorado Senate, was elected to his first full term in 2020. He won the Republican nomination unopposed Tuesday.

“We’re definitely going to convene with the Democrats in Pitkin, Garfield and Eagle counties in making sure we work together,” Velasco said. “We are the majority. This is a Democratic district.”

Las boletas para elecciones primarias de Colorado llegan a los votantes

Los votantes registrados en el condado de Garfield deberían recibir boletas por correo esta semana para las elecciones primarias republicanas y demócratas estatales y locales, programadas para el 28 de junio.

El secretario y registrador del condado de Garfield, Jean Alberico, dijo el lunes durante la reunión semanal de los comisionados del condado, que se enviaron por correo 38.000 boletas ese día.

Los votantes registrados como republicanos o demócratas recibirán solo la boleta de los candidatos de su partido. Ninguno de los partidos menores tiene primarias este año.

Los votantes no afiliados, a menos que hayan solicitado previamente preferencia por uno u otro, recibirán papeletas para ambas primarias, pero solo podrán emitir una, enfatizó Alberico.

“Esos votantes deben elegir uno y votar solo uno,” dijo. “Si alguien devuelve ambas boletas, ninguna será contada.”

Hay varias contiendas disputadas para las respectivas nominaciones de los partidos para pasar a las elecciones generales del 8 de noviembre.

Del lado republicano, los votantes elegirán entre la actual representante de los E.U. Lauren Boebert de Silt y el senador estatal saliente Don Coram de Montrose en la contienda por el tercer distrito del Congreso.

Además, se determinarán los candidatos republicanos para varias contiendas en todo el estado, que incluyen:

Para gobernador: Greg López y Heidi Ganahl

Para el Senado de EU.: Ron Hanks, Joe O’Dea y el candidato oficial por escrito Daniel Hendricks

Para Secretario de Estado: Tina Peters, Mike O’Donnell y Pam Anderson

Varios otros candidatos republicanos están sin oposición, incluido el representante estatal titular Perry Will en el Distrito 57 de la Cámara recientemente rediseñado y, para los votantes del condado de Garfield que residen al norte de la Interestatal 70 y fuera de los límites de la ciudad o el pueblo, Matt Solomon en el nuevo Distrito 8 del Senado estatal; así como John Kellner para el Fiscal General y Dan Maloit para la Junta de Educación del Estado, en general.

Todas las elecciones primarias para las oficinas del condado de Garfield están sin oposición, incluidas Tom Jankovsky para el comisionado del condado del Distrito 1; Jackie Harmon para secretario y registrador; Carrie Couey para Tesorero; Jim Yellico para Asesor; Lou Vallario para Sheriff; Scott Aibner para Surveyor y Rob Glassmire para Médico Forense.

En las primarias demócratas, las carreras disputadas incluyen:

Para el 3er Distrito Congresional: Soledad “Sol” Sandoval Tafoya, Alex Walker y Adam Frisch

Para el Distrito 57 de la Cámara Estatal: Colin “Cole” Buerger y Elizabeth Velasco

Sin oposición a nivel estatal están el senador estadounidense Michael Bennet; el gobernador Jared Polis; la secretaria de Estado Jena Griswold; el Tesorero Estatal Dave Young; el Fiscal General Phil Weiser; Kathy Plomer para la Junta Estatal de Educación, en general; y Dylan Roberts para la nominación del Distrito 8 del Senado Estatal.

Los demócratas locales han presentado candidatos para tres cargos del condado de Garfield, todos sin oposición, incluido Ryan Gordon para Comisionado del Condado del Distrito 1, Becky Moller para Secretaria y Registradora y Aron Díaz para Tesorero.

Las boletas primarias completas se pueden devolver en cualquiera de los buzones disponibles las 24 horas del día, los 7 días de la semana, ubicados en todo el condado, por correo con 58 centavos de franqueo, o en cualquiera de los Centros de Votación y Servicio al Votante en persona que abrirán más cerca del día de la elección.

El 20 de junio es el último día para registrarse para votar con un partido mayoritario o no afiliado y aun así recibir una boleta, o para actualizar la información del votante en línea, en http://www.govotecolorado.gov.

También se puede obtener información electoral adicional en la Oficina del Secretario y Registrador del Condado de Garfield, al 970-384-3700, o en garfield-county.com.

Todas las boletas primarias deben recibirse antes de las 7 p.m. 28 de junio.

Traducción de Edgar Barrantes. Puedes contactar al Reportero Sénior/Editor Gerente John Stroud al 970-384-9160 o jstroud@postindependent.com.

Colorado primary election ballots headed to voters

Registered voters in Garfield County should receive ballots in the mail this week for the state and local Republican and Democratic primary elections slated for June 28.

Garfield County Clerk and Recorder Jean Alberico said during the weekly county commissioners meeting Monday that 38,000 ballots were set to be mailed out that day.

Voters who are registered as a Republican or Democrat will receive only the ballot for their party’s candidates. None of the minor parties have primaries this year.

Unaffiliated voters, unless they previously requested a preference for one or the other, are to receive ballots for both primaries, but can only cast one, Alberico emphasized.

“Those voters must choose one and vote only one,” she said. “If anyone returns both ballots, neither one will be counted.”

There are several contested races for the respective party nominations to move on to the Nov. 8 general election.

On the Republican side, voters will be choosing between incumbent U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert of Silt and outgoing state Sen. Don Coram of Montrose in the 3rd Congressional District race.

In addition, Republican candidates for several statewide races will be determined, including:

For governor: Greg Lopez and Heidi Ganahl

For U.S. Senate: Ron Hanks, Joe O’Dea and official write-in candidate Daniel Hendricks

For Secretary of State: Tina Peters, Mike O’Donnell and Pam Anderson

Several other Republican candidates are uncontested, including incumbent state Rep. Perry Will in the newly redrawn House District 57 and, for Garfield County voters residing north of Interstate 70 and outside city or town limits, Matt Solomon in the new state Senate District 8; as well as John Kellner for Attorney General and Dan Maloit for the State Board of Education, at large.

All of the primaries for Garfield County offices are uncontested, including Tom Jankovsky for District 1 County Commissioner; Jackie Harmon for Clerk and Recorder; Carrie Couey for Treasurer; Jim Yellico for Assessor; Lou Vallario for Sheriff; Scott Aibner for Surveyor and Rob Glassmire for Coroner.

In the Democratic primary, contested races include:

For 3rd Congressional District: Soledad “Sol” Sandoval Tafoya, Alex Walker and Adam Frisch

For state House District 57: Colin “Cole” Buerger and Elizabeth Velasco

Uncontested at the state level are U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet; Gov. Jared Polis; Secretary of State Jena Griswold; State Treasurer Dave Young; Attorney General Phil Weiser; Kathy Plomer for State Board of Education, at large; and Dylan Roberts for the state Senate District 8 nomination.

Local Democrats have put forward candidates for three Garfield County offices, all uncontested, including Ryan Gordon for District 1 County Commissioner, Becky Moller for Clerk and Recorder and Aron Diaz for Treasurer.

Completed primary ballots can be returned to any of the 24/7 drop boxes located throughout the county, by mail with 58 cents in postage, or at any of the in-person Voter Service and Polling Centers that are to open closer to edlection Day.

June 20 is the last day to register to vote with either major party or unaffiliated and still receive a ballot, or to update voter information online, at www.govotecolorado.gov.

Additional election information can also be obtained from the Garfield County Clerk and Recorder’s Office, at 970-384-3700, or garfield-county.com.

All primary ballots must be received by 7 p.m. June 28.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

Elizabeth Velasco seeks to take advocacy work to State Capitol

House District 57 Democratic primary election candidate Elizabeth Velasco.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Editor’s note: This is the second of two stories on the two Democrats seeking election in the June 28 primary for the right to face Republican state Rep. Perry Will in the Nov. 8 general election to represent the new Colorado House District 57. A story on Cole Buerger appeared in Friday’s Post Independent, and can be read online at postindependent.com.

Whether working in the kitchen at some of the top Aspen hotels or helping share vital information to the Latino community during wildfire events, Elizabeth Velasco said she has gotten to know firsthand the issues and concerns affecting working-class residents.

After moving to Eagle County with her family from Mexico when she was 16, she set a course early on to earn her U.S. citizenship so she could eventually become an advocate for the working families who keep the region’s economic engine running.

“I’ve been a community leader and a manager in different work settings since I was 18, so I’ve been honing my leadership skills for a long time,” Velasco, now 34 and a resident of Glenwood Springs, said of her bid for the Democratic nomination to run for the newly redrawn Colorado House District 57 seat.

“I’ve also worked with some very diverse communities, from people who are here on work visas, to people who have been in the community for a long time, to people who are here visiting, and with clients from different upbringings who spoke many different languages,” she said. “So I think that’s where my love for people came from, and I see this as another way to serve the community.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, she immediately jumped in as a volunteer to help connect people in need to resources, such as rent and food assistance.

Velasco also helped manage the public health response within the Latino community, doing contact tracing and disseminating information about the importance of quarantining and isolating, and eventually helping with vaccine clinics.

“That led me to participate in a national project with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Johns Hopkins University, where we were facilitating stakeholder conversations with the heads of public health from different states,” Velasco said. “So I feel like that’s when I found my voice, and also where I saw that there’s a disconnect between people in power and the people on the ground.”

That same year, when the Grizzly Creek Fire broke out in Glenwood Canyon and Interstate 70 was closed for nearly two weeks, she became involved on the public information side of wildfire incident management.

“I remember the ashes falling on the cars and the smoky days, and just being really scared and thinking, ‘What do I take if we have to evacuate? Where do I go?,’” Velasco said. “My father-in-law was living with us after having a stroke, and we were thinking about the five-hour detour if something happened, and is he going to be OK.”

She said it occurred to her that others in the community were having those same stressful thoughts, so she became involved in interpreting and translating for the community briefings and sharing information on Spanish-speaking radio stations.

“Last year, I got my red card and my wildland firefighter Type 2 certification, and I was deployed in California and Oregon for the mega fires out there, working with tribal communities, ranchers and landowners, and making sure people were safe,” she said of her continuing journey.

Velasco faces fellow Democrat Cole Buerger, also of Glenwood Springs, in the House District 57 primary June 28. Ballots for the election go out to registered voters on Monday.

The primary vote, which is open to both registered Democrats and unaffiliated voters, will determine the Democratic challenger to face incumbent Republican state Rep. Perry Will, R-New Castle, in the November general election. Will is not contested for the Republican nomination.

House District 57 was reconfigured with last year’s legislative redistricting, and now includes all of Garfield and Pitkin counties, and the Roaring Fork Valley portion of southwest Eagle County.

The candidates are set to meet in a primary election forum at the Glenwood Springs Library, 815 Cooper Ave., from 6-7 p.m. Tuesday.

Background

Velasco moved to the U.S. when she was still in high school, graduating from Battle Mountain High School before earning a culinary arts degree from Colorado Mountain College.

She worked at the Ritz Carlton in Aspen and with Belle Resorts, which took her to places like Switzerland and different locations in Asia where she had the opportunity to work with celebrity chefs.

“I did that for almost 10 years,” said Velasco, who also worked toward and eventually earned her U.S. citizenship when she was 26.

“I love the kitchen, and now that I’m in firefighting it feels very similar; you know, very high-paced and efficient, and you have to make decisions fast,” she said.

Fire incident communication provides her an opportunity to interact more directly with people, and to learn about common issues and concerns, Velasco said.

She said she also became familiar with the many different backgrounds of the firefighters who come from all over to work wildland fires across the west.

“On one of the fires in Oregon, we were talking to this crew that came from Puerto Rico and learned how they’re training to improve their chainsaw skills so they can use that back home during the hurricane season,” Velasco said.

Those interactions also led to discussions and concerns around working conditions, pay, benefits and health issues associated with firefighting, she said.

The issues

Velasco places the main issues facing the 57th District and Colorado in general under the “four pillars” of her campaign — community resiliency, infrastructure, access to health care and supporting families.

“I see that a lot of the issues are interconnected, and things don’t get solved in a day,” she said. “It’s important to bring our community’s voice to the table to make sure we are working on these things in tandem.”

She relates that approach to everything from housing and health care to climate change and water concerns.

“I see things like fire and drought and higher temperatures as our new reality,” she said. “So we have to do things to support firefighters and other outdoors workers, and financially support forest health.”

That also extends to making sure communities have the resources to protect against loss of life and property during wildfires, Velasco said.

When it comes to water resources, she said that, alongside conservation efforts, efforts need to be made to ensure water system infrastructure is maintained and operating efficiently so that water is not being wasted.

“We also have to look at our agreements with surrounding states to make sure that we’re not diverting too much water and that we are holding all of the stakeholders accountable,” Velasco said.

Housing needs are connected to community resiliency and ultimately the economy, she said.

“Employers see that they’re understaffed and people can’t afford to live here, but it also goes together with getting paid a living wage and supporting families,” Velasco said. “We have to find ways for municipalities to have the resources to buy land and create affordable housing development, and make sure people have access to low-interest loans.”

The state should also further protections for mobile home residents and afford them the opportunity to buy their mobile home parks when they go up for sale, as recently happened in Dotsero, she said.

Protecting reproductive rights and supporting access to health care and making more provisions for paid leave for workers are also among the top priorities, she said.

“There are still many barriers to access for our community, especially because we are a rural community,” Velasco said.

As a trained facilitator and mediator, Velasco also said she believes she has the ability to work across party lines to come up with bipartisan solutions.

“We have to find those points of commonality … because we all want the best for our kids, and we want them to have access to opportunities and to resources,” she said. “I will work with anyone who wants common-sense solutions.”

Velasco has earned the endorsements of several labor unions in Colorado and said she’ll fight for workers’ rights. She has also been endorsed by the Latino advocacy group, Voces Unidas Action Fund and, if ultimately elected, said she looks forward to working with the Latino Caucus in the Colorado Legislature.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

Cole Buerger touts policy experience in race to represent Colorado House District 57

Colorado House District 57 Democratic primary election candidate Cole Buerger.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Editor’s note: This is the first of two stories on the two Democrats seeking election in the June 28 primary for the right to face Republican state Rep. Perry Will in the Nov. 8 general election to represent the new Colorado House District 57. A story on Elizabeth Velasco is set to appear in Monday’s Post Independent, and online at postindependent.com.

Garfield County native and Glenwood Springs resident Cole Buerger spent much of his early career holding up American democracy as an example in his global work with the National Endowment for Democracy.

So, when protesters of the 2020 presidential election barged through barriers, assaulted security officers and stormed the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., he said he heard a call to action for himself politically.

“It broke my heart as somebody who has spent most of the early part of my career talking about the power of the American example and the power of self-government, to see a direct attack on our democracy,” Buerger said. “That really inspired me to dip my feet in the domestic political space as a candidate.”

Initially, he set his sights on the race for the Democratic nomination to run for the 3rd Congressional District seat.

“I wanted to make sure that part of the conversation was talking about democracy and protecting it, because I think we sometimes forget that, without democracy, a lot of the other stuff doesn’t matter,” he said.

As that race became crowded with other Democratic candidates lining up to be the party’s nominee to face a likely challenge against conservative firebrand Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., in the general election, Buerger decided to turn his attention closer to home.

He faces fellow Democrat Elizabeth Velasco, also of Glenwood Springs, in the Colorado House District 57 primary on June 28. Ballots for both the Democratic and Republican primaries are to be sent out next week.

The candidates are set to meet in a primary election forum at the Glenwood Springs Library, 815 Cooper Ave., from 6-7 p.m. June 7.

The primary election, which is open to both registered Democrats and unaffiliated voters, will determine the Democratic challenger to face incumbent Republican state Rep. Perry Will, R-New Castle, in the November general election.

Will is not contested for the Republican nomination, though the Republican primary ballot does include decisions in the 3rd Congressional District, U.S. Senate, Colorado governor, Secretary of State and other state offices.

House District 57 was re-configured with last year’s legislative redistricting, and now includes all of Garfield and Pitkin counties, and the Roaring Fork Valley portion of southwest Eagle County.

“At the end of the day, the goal of my campaign is to rebuild trust and faith in our democratic system,” Buerger said. “We need leaders at every level who are focused on getting problems solved.

“Here in the 57th District, we have some very specific problems, whether that’d be affordable housing, or access to health care, or protecting our water; just to name a few,” he said.

Background

Buerger, 39, grew up on the family ranch south of Silt, spending his childhood raising steers and pigs for the Garfield County Fair 4-H shows and attending Rifle High School his freshman year before moving to Colorado Springs and graduating high school there.

After college, his early career connected him with the National Endowment for Democracy, where he worked abroad to help strengthen democracy in Asia and other parts of the world.

He went on to earn a master’s degree in public policy at the University of Chicago, and re-joined the National Endowment working on anti-corruption and transparency initiatives around the world.

For the past nearly 10 years, Buerger has owned a small communications firm, working with local, state and national organizations on issues such as educational funding equity, women’s rights, mental health initiatives and human trafficking.

He views HD57 as a diverse district politically as it stretches from Aspen to western Garfield County.

“That doesn’t really shift a lot of the issues we face, as we talk about things like affordable housing and being able to live where you work,” Buerger said. “Everywhere in Colorado, we talk about the importance of protecting our public lands and our water, especially in western Colorado. The job of the next representative will be to bring people together from Aspen to Parachute to solve problems that are confronting our district.”

Buerger says he’s the candidate with the experience on the policy-making and legislative front to best represent HD57.

“Growing up in Silt, I know intimately the needs of western Colorado,” he said. “My mom still lives on the ranch, and knows that we have to rely upon snowpack to irrigate the fields. My brother is in Glenwood Springs and is deeply affected by the need to have to commute up and down the valley for his work.

“So it’s a connection to the full spectrum of issues and knowing how to get things done.”

In the state Legislature, it’s also about being a voice on broader issues and standing up to things like LGBTQ bigotry, he said. Buerger is gay and a vocal advocate on LGBTQ issues.

“I spent 15 years of my career working on behalf of people who have been left out or disenfranchised or oppressed,” he said. “I think that speaks volumes to what I’ll be able to do in Denver.”

The issues

When it comes to addressing the main issues impacting the house district and the state as a whole, Buerger said they fall into three buckets — “our quality of life, sustainability and protecting our democracy.”

“For me quality of life means making sure people can live where they work, addressing the housing affordability crisis and ensuring that we’re not paying a 20% premium for health care,” he said.

“Sustainability is about protecting our water and our public lands, and ensuring that we’re addressing climate change,” Buerger said. “Whether you’re a resort resident or rancher, we all depend upon the snow that falls on our mountains, and we’ve got to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to protect our winters and to protect our climate and be a leader in that field.”

When it comes to protecting democracy, politics needs to move beyond the current system that he says incentivizes extremism and division.

“We can do things in the state house, whether it be cumulative voting, or rank-choice voting, that takes some of this toxic extremism on both sides out of the equation,” he said.

At the same time, there are opportunities to work across the aisle on those same issues, Buerger said.

“A lot of that is just about showing up,” he said, referring to recent visits he had with the Holy Cross Cattlemen’s Association and with leaders in the local Latino business community.

​​”You have to show up and listen to every voice in our district, and then find where you have common ground,” Buerger said. “If we can be respectful and reach out and listen, I think we can move good policy. We can’t continue to divide people into ever smaller groups or representation.”

Recently, Buerger earned the endorsement of the Colorado Chamber of Commerce, and has lined up the endorsements of several elected officials from within the house district.

“Making sure that we have a thriving community means making sure that we have a good business climate,” he said. “I will always be on the side of higher wages, great jobs, benefits that mean people can live and exist where they work.

“But if we are going to diversify our economy further and make sure that we are not a boom and bust economy, we’ve got to make sure that the business climate is good for small businesses and medium-sized businesses alike.”

On the housing front, Buerger said the state can assist by creating incentives and eliminating revenue limits for municipalities to raise funds to complete public-private partnership projects.

“That would allow them a much more sustainable revenue stream than having to wait on the next grant,” he said.

When it comes to water policy, the key is working with downstream users in the Colorado River Basin to renegotiate the Colorado River Compact, he said.

“We have to work with downstream states like California and Arizona to embrace new sources, including desalination projects,” Buerger said. “With the growth that we’re seeing in the southwest, there simply isn’t enough water in the Colorado (River), and we’ve got to figure out ways to add additional water supplies to these downstream systems.”

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

Yllanes appointed back onto Carbondale Board of Trustees

Newly reappointed Carbondale Trustee Luis Yllanes speaks during a March 2022 candidates forum at Town Hall.
John Stroud/Post Independent

Luis Yllanes’ break from serving as a Carbondale Trustee was short-lived.

The Carbondale Board of Trustees on Tuesday appointed Yllanes to serve out the remaining two years of a vacant board seat over two other applicants, Jess Robison, who, like Yllanes, was a candidate in the April election, and Carbondale native Kade Gianinetti, who sits on the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission.

Factoring heavily into the board’s decision was the fact that Yllanes was the fourth-highest vote-getter in the April 5 municipal election to fill three seats on the town board.

That election saw the reelection of Erica Sparhawk to another four-year term as trustee, along with newcomers Chris Hassig and Colin Laird.

The fourth trustee seat was left vacant after former Trustee Ben Bohmfalk was elected in the uncontested race for the mayor. Yllanes will serve out the final two years of Bohmfalk’s term.

“After serving one term, I thought it was important to continue some of the work that we have started,” Yllanes said in his interview with the board for the appointment during the regular BOT meeting Tuesday night.

“These next two years are going to be critical … and the town is at a crossroads now,” Yllanes said, referencing the recent donation of several undeveloped parcels of land in the downtown core to the town, general traffic and transportation infrastructure concerns, and issues such as securing more affordable housing and limiting short-term rentals of residential properties in town.

As the newly named executive director for the 5Point Film Festival within the last year, Yllanes said he now has a broader view of the outdoors culture and its tourism potential that has built up around Carbondale.

At the same time, “A lot of people see Carbondale as the last truly authentic place in the valley, and it’s important for the town to maintain that identity,” he said.

Although there were five candidates who missed the cut in the April election, only Yllanes and Robison put in for the vacant seat. Former candidate Zane Kessler lent his support to Yllanes, and candidates Colin Quinn and Frosty Merriott decided not to seek the appointment.

“We only have one spot, but I wish we had three,” Bohmfalk said in encouraging Robison and Gianinetti to stay active on the civic front.

Robison, who works in the construction business, said it was interesting to hear the perspectives of residents when she was out campaigning, especially on development and affordable housing.

“We need to find a middle ground, and have a collaborative approach to serve the town in a better way than we’ve done in the past,” she said.

Gianinetti is a multi-generational native of Carbondale from a long-time ranching family. He spoke in his address to the board about the need to balance development and growth with preserving the agricultural heritage of the area.

“At 18, I moved away and couldn’t wait to leave,” he said. “It took me 12 years in Denver, dealing with a lot of larger governments as the owner of several small businesses, to make me realize I wanted to come back.

“We have to figure out how to grow and evolve in this community, and how we use the land. … It’s not an easy topic, and that growth changes a lot in the way Carbondale is seen,” Gianinetti said.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.