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Garfield County commissioner race is already heating up

Dennis WebbGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

With one incumbent planning to seek re-election and another not, several possible challengers are considering runs for Garfield County commissioner.Commissioner John Martin of Glenwood Springs could face a potential challenge from fellow Republican Dave Moore, who as Silt’s mayor currently is the target of a recall campaign. And Democrat and No Name resident Greg Jeung has yet to decide whether to make another try for the job after narrowly losing to Martin in 2004.Meanwhile, the race for county commissioner in western Garfield County is wide open because of the decision by incumbent Larry McCown, a Republican, not to run again.Republicans have scheduled a news conference for 7 p.m. tonight at the Rifle Fire Protection headquarters, 1850 Railroad Ave., to announce a candidate for the seat. It will become open when McCown’s term ends at the end of next year. Also, Rifle attorney and former longtime county judge Steve Carter says he is seriously considering entering the race.Carter is a Democrat, as is Rifle Mayor Keith Lambert, who unsuccessfully ran against McCown four years ago. Lambert said he’s thinking he won’t run, particularly if a Democratic candidate of the caliber of Carter is willing to join the race.”He would be an excellent candidate. He certainly has a long history in the county and the community,” Lambert said.The two races will be pivotal because Republicans hold majority control of the county commission. Democrat Trési Houpt represents the eastern portion of the county.Both Martin and McCown were first elected as commissioners in 1996. Although the county doesn’t have term limits, McCown said he thinks 12 years of service will be enough for him.”I just chose to go ahead and retire. I’d like to think it’s like (John) Elway, I’d like to think it’s at the top of my game,” he said, in reference to the Denver Broncos quarterback who retired after winning a second Super Bowl.McCown’s decision comes despite the fact that there are some county projects he would like to have seen through past next year, such as improvements to the county airport.”I think there’ll always be those,” he said. “Sooner or later you have to decide it’s enough.”Martin said he also hasn’t accomplished everything he’d like to do.”I’m still enthusiastic about every aspect of the job,” he said.Whether he gets to continue serving past next year is up to general election voters, and first the Republican Party, which will decide on its candidate through its primary process, he said.He could face a challenge from someone who faces a major challenge of his own right now. Silt voters are scheduled to decide April 1 whether to recall Moore based on accusations that he has violated codes and statutes and been involved in conflicts of interest. Moore hopes to find out how the recall turns out before deciding whether to run for commissioner as a Republican, but apparently can’t afford to wait that long.Moore said he also could consider running as an independent.”I feel it would be a lot easier to beat John Martin in a general election than in a primary,” he said.The reason is that Moore supported Democrats Houpt and John Gorman in their successful election campaigns last year. Gorman was elected county assessor. Moore has faced some fallout from Republicans for his endorsements.Moore said if he survived the recall effort and were elected commissioner, the next decision he would face would be whether to try to serve as mayor and commissioner at the same time.Jeung, a former Glenwood Springs City Council member, is trying to sort out mixed feelings about the prospect of running for commissioner again. He’s nagged by the notion that he might have been able to unseat Martin in 2004 with just a little more campaigning, but knows another campaign would present new difficulties four years later.”The county’s changed a lot. Trying to get to know people and get my message out is going to be more of a challenge,” he said.Republican and Rulison resident Phil Vaughan, chair of the county Planning and Zoning Commission, reportedly has voiced interest in running for McCown’s seat, or possibly a position in the state legislature. But Becky Rippy, a Republican central committee member in the county, said Vaughan hasn’t told the committee of any plans to run for commissioner. Vaughan could not be reached for comment.Lambert said a heart attack he suffered since his 2004 commissioner campaign caused him to re-evaluate priorities. He’s a retired teacher, and his wife has retired, and they like being able to travel. He enjoys being mayor and fears he would lose some flexibility in his personal life if he became a county commissioner.Carter, 62, retired after serving as a county judge from 1972-2004, perhaps the longest tenure of any county court judge in the county, he said. Although it’s tempting for him to relax in retirement, he said he’s interested in becoming a commissioner as a way of helping keep the county “a place my kids would want move back to.”Contact Dennis Webb: 384-9119dwebb@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO


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