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A boost for Garfield County politics

Phillip YatesGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – The presidential election this November is the most wide-open it’s been in decades. No incumbent president and no vice president is running. The interest in this year’s election has some experts and pundits saying there is going to be a tremendous turnout come Nov. 4.Many in Garfield County are also expecting a large turnout in the election, with both local Republican and Democrat party leaders thinking they can field candidates to capitalize on the anticipated swell of voters.Ed Sands, chairman for the Garfield County Democratic Party, said while few Democrats have announced their intentions to run for county and state office races, the accelerated presidential primaries and caucuses this year have enlivened the Democratic Party in Colorado.Colorado’s caucuses will be held on Feb. 5, the same day dozens of other states will hold their caucuses and primaries – a day many are calling “Tsunami Tuesday.” The more common name is Super Tuesday.”I think the caucuses are very different this year,” Sands said. “The state has experimented with those caucuses and primaries, but Colorado always held them so late, the races were decided at the national level. “This year, it is a whole new ball game,” Sands said. “For the first time in a long, long time, Colorado Democrats will actually be able to be part of the process in a meaningful way.”Sands said he expects the local Democratic field to build on the successes the party has seen in recent years. Some of the successes include John Gorman becoming the county’s new county assessor and county Commissioner Trési Houpt’s large margin of victory when she ran for re-election in 2006. “I no longer consider Garfield County a Republican county, a red county, or a blue county,” Sands said. “It’s one of those purple, swing counties, and I think we can build upon our successes and do very well this year. There is tremendous enthusiasm among the rank and file to get involved at the local level.”Democrat Greg Jeung, once seen as a potential challenger to Garfield County Commissioner John Martin, a Republican who is running for re-election, took his name out of consideration in late December. Jeung made an unsuccessful run against Martin in 2004. No other Democrat has declared a candidacy for that office, Sands said.”We are talking to some other people and hope to have a candidate lined up soon,” Sands said.Houpt is not up for election.Rifle attorney Steve Carter, a Democrat, said that he is considering a run against declared Republican candidate Mike Samson in the District 3 race and that an official announcement about whether he will run might come on or a little after Jan. 21. Republican incumbent Larry McCown decided against running for re-election in that district. Milt Blakey, chair of the Garfield County Republicans, said the presidential election will probably cause a lot more interest in local politics, but he thinks the slate of Republican candidates running for local offices will deflect challenges from Democratic competitors.”I think we are going to field good candidates in the county, so I don’t have any question about that,” Blakey said. “We have good people running and people we think can certainly win. I think locally, it will be a good year for the Republicans.”Randy Baumgardner, a Colorado Department of Transportation employee and rancher from Hot Sulphur Springs, announced in early December that he was running as a Republican to replace state Rep. Al White, R-Hayden, who represents the state’s 57th District in the House of Representatives. White is term-limited and now running for Senate District 8 looking to replace outgoing Steamboat Springs Republican Jack Taylor.No Democrat has announced an intention to run for the 57th District office, Sands said.District 57 includes parts of western Garfield County while District 8 senate seat includes all of the county.The anticipation of the presidential election already has Garfield County Clerk and Recorder Jean Alberico preparing. She said her office is going to be proactive as the election year rolls through the Colorado caucuses and to the presidential election, issuing mailings to make sure area voters’ addresses are correct, and giving people a chance to change party affiliations, or become reactivated if they have been deactivated on county voting rolls.”We are anticipating a lot of interest, and a large percentage of people voting,” Alberico said.Complicating Alberico’s efforts to prepare for what many are saying is going to be a huge turnout in November is the recent move by Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman to decertify the voting machine used by the county to tabulate election results. Alberico and many clerk and recorders across the state are in a similar limbo, hoping for the state legislature to give them guidance on how to move forward so they can prepare for the November elections.Contact Phillip Yates: 384-9117pyates@postindependent.com


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