Lambert and McCown too close to call |

Lambert and McCown too close to call

With only eight precincts counted in the race for Garfield County Commissioner in District 3 as of press time, Republican incumbent Larry McCown had a margin of 569 votes over Democratic challenger Keith Lambert. McCown garnered 6,157 votes, or 52 percent, against 5,588 votes, or 48 percent, for Lambert.

“I have to say the local campaign, mine and John’s (Martin) were good positive campaigns,” McCown said Tuesday night. “We stuck to the issues and never varied from the points or stances we took. We stayed the course … Greg (Jeung) and Keith (Lambert) ran a good campaign as well.”

“However it turns out, it’s been a pleasure to run and have people across the county support me and listen to my message,” Lambert said. “But the people of the county come first.”

McCown, a Republican, mounted his campaign on his eight years of experience as a county commissioner, saying he’s learned the ins and outs of county government and has proven himself as a leader.

He has also said that his background in law enforcement, road construction and running a small business prepared him well for his position as county commissioner.

After a career as a Missouri State Highway Patrol officer, McCown worked with Daniel Construction building the Unocal oil shale retort plant near Parachute. He also worked as a superintendent for Flatiron Structures on highway projects in Glenwood Canyon, DeBeque Canyon and in the Denver area.

Natural gas development, and its impact on residents of western Garfield County, was the primary issue of the campaign.

During the campaign, McCown came back time and again to what he sees as a confusion among residents of west Garfield County impacted by natural gas development who do not understand the role of the county.

The county’s ability to control the industry is limited and often leads to residents’ frustration when they bring complaints about drilling impacts to the county commissioners, McCown said.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) has the primary regulatory authority over drilling. But many of its critics have accused it of being more favorable to the industry’s interests over those of land owners where drilling takes place.

McCown said the county took a more proactive approach to answering citizen complaints about gas drilling when it created the Energy Advisory Board and hired Doug Dennison as oil and gas auditor job. But he also said he voted for them after giving due consideration to what value there would be to a board and a position with no regulatory authority.

Lambert said the county should have moved more quickly in creating the board and hiring Dennison. He has also said he sees one of the board’s primary roles as educating the public, and to provide a clearinghouse for problems faced by residents due to drilling.

Lambert supports having the county lobby the state for more power over how the natural gas companies do business here. He said county government needs to take over the authority to issue drilling permits from the COGCC.

McCown said counties have already achieved a good deal in pushing the state to institute more stringent industry rules.

He also said he gained a good working knowledge of the industry during his eight years in office, and has seen its benefits and impacts. He believes energy companies have been good neighbors, as indicated by how often they sponsor community events and programs.

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