Martin apparent winner for seventh term on Garfield County Board of Commissioners; Soto not yet conceding | PostIndependent.com
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Martin apparent winner for seventh term on Garfield County Board of Commissioners; Soto not yet conceding

Garfield County Commissioner District 2 candidates, from left, John Martin, Beatriz Soto and Brian Bark.

Republican Garfield County Commissioner John Martin appears to have won reelection to a seventh term after a hard-fought and heavily funded challenge for the District 2 seat by Democrat Beatriz Soto.

However, Soto said late Wednesday that she is not conceding the race just yet with potentially more than 500 votes outstanding.

A fourth and final day-after-election update from the Garfield County Clerk’s Office gave Martin 14,424 votes, or 48.7%, to Soto’s 13,907 votes, or 47%.

Brian Bark, who ran as an unaffiliated candidate for the seat, claimed 1,279 votes, or 4.3%, according to the Wednesday afternoon tally.

Garfield Clerk Jean Alberico said 535 ballots could still be counted for the election, including ones held out of the count for various reasons such as signature and other discrepancies. Those ballots can still be cured by voters up until Nov. 12, and are to be tabulated on Nov. 13, she said.

“We want to respect those voters, especially because the race is so close,” Soto said. “It’s just fair, out of respect to each voter and to hear all voices and what they want for the future of their community.”

“Five-hundred and seventeen is better than three-hundred and seventy-seven,” Martin said Wednesday afternoon of the difference in the number of votes between he and Soto late election night compared to the new total.

Should the apparent outcome hold up, “I just want to thank the voters for a new four-year term, and to say that I will do my very best,” Martin said. “And a big thanks to Jean and her group. They’ve been under tremendous pressure, and are working through a lot of challenges.”

Martin touted his “one-man committee and word-of-mouth” campaign, as well as modest funding — $9,581 compared to Soto’s $73,417, as of the Oct. 30 financial reports filed with the state.

“The people won because the outside money didn’t win,” Martin said. “It was the people who voted.”

That aside, Martin said he’s willing to sit down with Soto and any of her base of voters to discuss the issues.

“I never hold anything against anyone, and do want to learn from folks and use some of that for the benefit of our people here in Garfield County,” he said. “Now that the politics are over, it’s time to take care of people.”

Martin took the lead in the race late Tuesday after Soto had led most of the night based on early returns.

Soto said she is optimistic about the future of Garfield County with the coalition she was able to build.

“I want to thank the almost 14,000 voters who supported my campaign, which I believe represents a new movement in Garfield County,” she said. “People are coming together to create a change that is going to run deep. I’m optimistic for our future and know that we’ll continue to grow in the right direction.”

Soto said late Tuesday as the race narrowed, “Regardless of the election result, we will continue to fight for local racial and social justice, and to add voices to protect our environment and public lands.

“I’m incredibly thankful to all our staff and volunteers,” she added. “We all worked side by side to help build a local grassroots movement.”

County commissioners are elected county-wide, but must reside within a representative district in the sprawling county that stretches from Carbondale on the east to the Utah state line on the west. The other race this election saw incumbent Republican Mike Samson win reelection over Democrat Leslie Robinson for the District 3 seat.

Martin has served as chairman of the board for many years since fellow Republicans Samson and Tom Jankovsky joined the board in 2008 and 2010, respectively.

Martin said the 82% voter turnout in Garfield County is indication that people are engaged now more than ever.

“It’s a wonderful day for our voting public,” he said late Tuesday, noting several of his past reelection bids have been close, as well.

“People are motivated and involved, and with all of the division in our country everything is extremely polarized,” Martin said. “We will work through this, and find common ground. It is a great awakening.”

Soto, from Glenwood Springs, came to the Roaring Fork Valley with her Mexican immigrant family as a teenager and recently became a naturalized U.S. citizen.

Soto entered the race in July, replacing former Carbondale Trustee Katrina Byars as the Democrats’ candidate for the District 2 seat, after Byars decided to bow out.

Soto based her campaign on a call for broader representation in Garfield County on a wide range of issues, including the economy, social justice and the environment.

She is a co-founder of the Roaring Fork Latino Network, an initiative of Voces Unidas de las Montañas which formed last spring in an effort to give stronger voice to the Roaring Fork Valley’s Latino population.

Soto works as an architect, and graduated from Basalt High School in 1999. She immigrated to the United States with her family from Mexico as a teenager. She is now married with two sons.

Bark, from New Castle, petitioned his way onto the ballot as an unaffiliated candidate in June for the District 2 seat, saying Garfield County residents deserve non-partisan representation on their county board.

jstroud@postindependent.com


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