Garfield Republicans go with Romney |

Garfield Republicans go with Romney

Heather McGregor, John Stroud, John Colson and John Gardner
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
Kelley Cox Post Independent

Republican precinct caucuses drew record high crowds across Garfield County Tuesday, and a presidential preference poll revealed an east-west split between supporters of Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.

Overall, the GOP caucuses drew 636 registered Republicans. They split 244 for Romney, 223 for Santorum, 87 for Ron Paul, 80 for Newt Gingrich and 2 for Jon Huntsman.

In Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, Romney carried the polling, while in New Castle, Silt and Parachute, Santorum pulled ahead. In Rifle, Santorum and Romney split the vote 47-46. New Castle and Silt also rounded up more support for Paul, while Gingrich had tepid support county-wide.

“The turnout tonight speaks a lot to the importance of this election cycle,” said Jon Warnick, who was elected district captain for the four Carbondale precincts.

By comparison, the 2008 Republican caucuses for the same four precincts had around 30 participants.

“This is huge,” said Glenwood Springs City Councilman Mike Gamba as he surveyed a crowd of nearly 200 gathered for an eight-precinct caucus at the Glenwood Springs Community Center.

In Rifle, where 114 Republicans turned out to caucus at the fairgrounds, Garfield County Commissioner Mike Samson spoke to the crowd briefly about his re-election campaign. He said this upcoming presidential election is very important for Republicans.

“We need to elect strong candidates in county, state and national levels that share the same ideals that we do,” Samson said.

Ninth District Attorney Martin Beeson, caucusing in Rifle, said the good turnout shows that Republicans are concerned about the direction the nation is headed and that they want to do something about it.

“We have a chance to change things, and things need to be changed,” Beeson said.

Romney supporters said they believe he has the best chance of ousting President Obama in the November election.

“He’s going to be the most effective in moving us forward, and away from polarity politics,” said Patrick Collins of Glenwood Springs.

“He has the best ability to beat Obama. I agree with him on how to turn around the economy, and I like his foreign policy,” said Dave Winsor of Glenwood Springs.

“Character counts, and I like his values,” said Charlotte Zilm of Glenwood Springs.

Scott Balcomb favored Romney for pragmatic reasons. “The sole purpose of a political party is to win elections, and in my judgment, Romney is the most electable,” he said.

Carbondale resident Kim Kelley brought her two children, Jake, 13, and Lisa, 10, to observe the caucusing and learn some things about the political process.

Kelley supported Romney after going to Grand Junction Monday to hear him speak.

“Just some of the things I heard him say, that’s what earned my vote,” she said.

Jake Kelley said he was listening closely in case his mom gave him and his sister a test.

“I listened to Mitt Romney on the radio, and he just sounds the most logical,” he said. “He doesn’t just tell you what you want to hear, and he’s not yelling and screaming as much. The others just say they’re going to do things, and then they don’t do it.”

Jeff Carlson, also from Precinct 4, endorsed Romney as an outsider who can turn things around for the country.

“Washington is broken, and we need someone from outside Washington who knows something about how to fix things,” Carlson said, adding that Romney is the only candidate who’s organized enough to defeat President Obama.

Kip Costanzo of Rifle said he wasn’t surprised with Santorum’s narrow victory in Rifle. “That is about how I thought it would turn out,” he said.

Santorum supporters were outspoken in Glenwood Springs.

“He is the true constitutional conservative,” said Dendy Heisel. “He’s got a good strong record, the least baggage of all the candidates, and he presents the clearest contrast to President Obama. He will give us a race focused on the issues.”

In a warm-up presentation prior to preference poll voting, Shannon Beavers spoke for Santorum.

“He has an A-plus average with the National Rifle Association, and he’s done a lot for our Second Amendment rights. He has defeated Democratic incumbents in some tough elections. Also, I like that he’s never voted for a tax increase,” Beavers said.

Chuck and Sharon Brenner of Carbondale have been active participants in the Garfield County tea party rallies in recent years. They supported Rick Santorum because they believe he is the most conservative candidate in the field, both fiscally and socially.

“He’s just a RINO (Republican in Name Only),” Sharon Brenner said of Romney.

Carbondale resident Mike Vrabel registered as a Republican to support Paul.

“He’s the only decent candidate we have,” Vrabel said. “And he’s the only one who can beat Obama.

“I’m sick of taxes, and I’m sick of all this global policing, and it’s imminent that the Social Security system is failing,” he said.

“It’s about the man, not the party, for me,” Vrabel said, adding he would switch to the Libertarian Party if Paul decides to go that route.

In Glenwood Springs, Jerry Law spoke for Paul, although he noted that, “Anyone on the list would be better than Obama.”

Law said Paul’s platform calls for getting the federal government out of social issues, such as abortion and gay marriage, and leaving those issues for state-level decision making.

Law said, “Marriage started in the church. How dare the homosexuals take that word. They can call it what they want, but they shouldn’t call it marriage.”

At that point, a man stood up in the crowd and stated, “There are gay Republicans.”

“I’m sure there are,” Law said, and then moved on to other parts of Paul’s platform.

Neal Pollack of Missouri Heights urged his fellow Precinct 4 party members to support Newt Gingrich for president.

Though he said he once resented Gingrich’s saying he didn’t have the time to serve in the military as a young man, Pollock now supports him for president.

“He genuinely loves this country, and there’s nothing wrong with an insider who knows how the system works,” Pollock said.

As for those who would question Gingrich’s moral character, Pollock said, “We’re not marrying him.”

Pollock also said he believes Rick Santorum’s anti-abortion stance makes him unelectable.

In Glenwood Springs, Michael Blair said he favors Gingrich “because he’s ornery.”

“We need someone who will be a lot more forward, tougher and with a big mouth, somebody that’s bold and aggressive,” Blair said. “Romney seems like a nice guy, but too nice.”

At the caucuses, residents of each precinct elected delegates and alternates would would attend the county assembly, to be held March 24 in Rifle. From there, 62 delegates and 62 alternates will be selected to attend the state convention, set for April 13-14 in Denver.

Hank Stone of Westbank was selected as a delegate for Precinct 5, his second time to serve as a delegate. “I think it’s important to participate. That’s what we have our government set up for, for active participation,” he said.

He said he had no strong preference among the candidates, but added, “I’m more of a Santorum supporter than anybody. I’m mainly hoping we’ll be responsible for making Obama retire. He needs to find a new job.”

Angela Beeson of Rifle threw her hat into the delegate ring, calling it an honor and privilege to be able to participate in a presidential election.

“I would love to go through this process and to represent the people,” she said. “I’ve never been able to do this before.”

Beeson was born in China and became a U.S. citizen in 2007. She said in China, she never had any interest in politics because it didn’t really matter. But, she is elated to have a voice here in the U.S.

“It truly is a privilege,” she said. “It’s an amazing opportunity.”

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