Martin wins GOP commission primary |

Martin wins GOP commission primary

John Martin
Staff Photo |


Joyce Rankin of Carbondale won her Republican primary race to retain her Third District seat on the Colorado Board of Education. She was winning 55 percent of the vote against Anita Stapleton of Pueblo, a Common Core opponent. Rankin, who was appointed last year to complete the term of Marcia Neal of Grand Junction, who resigned. Rankin will face Democrat Christine Pacheco-Koveleski, a Pueblo attorney, in November.

Longtime Garfield County Commissioner John Martin on Tuesday won the Republican nomination to retain his seat.

In the general election, Martin will face John Acha, a New Castle Democrat. A former construction contractor in the U.S. Air Force and later with NATO, Acha has been running his own company, Action Estimating, for the last 17 years.

Martin, who is seeking his sixth term as a commissioner, had 73.3 percent of the vote in unofficial returns, easily topping Silt Trustee Aron Diaz.

“I thank Aron Diaz for running an honorable campaign. I’m proud of him, as a young person, for stepping up to run for election, and I encourage him to do it again,” Martin said.

The commissioner added that he’s looking forward to getting into some good debates with Acha.

Martin largely ran on his experience from two decades as a commissioner and an intimate knowledge of the county’s affairs — telling constituents during the campaign, “I’ve made tens of thousands of decisions for you.”

The commissioner has not strayed from his philosophy that government should be “small, efficient, effective and cost-effective.”

Since Martin was first elected, Garfield County has gone from a dysfunctional local government with debt problems to a great financial success that’s put $100 million-plus in its reserves, he said. And in all that time, the county has not once proposed a new tax.

Martin also prizes the Federal Mineral Lease District, a creation of his that, by leveraging payments from natural gas wells on federal land in the county, has allowed the county’s partners to cash in on more than $15 million for infrastructure over the last four years.

And while the county is preparing for the projected $13 million drop in revenues next year as a result of declining oil and gas activity that fuels property tax revenues, Martin has an eye toward other governmental entities that have relied upon the same.

Martin often cites limitations to the county’s authority in its dealings with other governments. In the case of oil and gas development in Battlement Mesa, he falls back on the community’s Planned Unit Development, which does nothing to restrict gas exploration.

With the 25 oil and gas leases in the Thompson Divide that environmentalists, recreationists and many ranchers want canceled, he says that a proposed lease swap is a great alternative. But he follows that up by saying that permanently withdrawing the area from possible exploration isn’t possible under federal statutes.

The Board of Commissioners has tried to decentralize everything, not to control, but to bring the municipalities into a partnership, Martin said earlier in the campaign.

Martin says he and other county leaders have been building a culture of public service in the county government, while his critics say he often runs roughshod over towns and others that must deal with the commission.

His challenger Diaz portrayed Martin as a status-quo candidate.

Diaz, who also has experience in federal, state and local government, focused on what he perceived as the county’s hands-off nature under Martin’s leadership.

The county looks good on paper, Diaz has said, but its businesses are not doing so well.

He proposed being more proactive with the county’s resources, both its finances and connections, to bolster the business environment and further the projects of municipalities and other government partners.

Diaz also focused during his campaign on bringing economic diversity to the county to mitigate what he saw as a risky reliance on the downward trending oil and gas industry.

The Silt trustee has also taken some heat for his support of a couple of failed tax measures: a mill levy override for the Re-2 school district and a sales tax for a Rifle recreation center.

But he’s stood behind those efforts and made it clear he isn’t as averse to tax increases as Martin has been.

“I’m proud of the race we ran and thankful for all of my supporters,” said Diaz. “I think I brought up issues that about one-third of Republicans in the county feel are important, and I think I drew out a lot of non-traditional voters.”

Diaz noted that more Garfield County votes were cast in the District 2 commissioner race than in any other primary race, including the U.S. Senate race.

As the race heads into the general election, Diaz anticipates those issues will play a bigger role and is hopeful Republicans will be able to capitalize on them.

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