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Opinion: Intra-party dickering reins supreme in Mesa County

Jim Hoffman
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Free Press Weekly Opinion Columnist

It would certainly be neglectful were I not to comment on the recent Republican County General Assembly held here in Mesa County, which was reported on the front page of the March 30 edition of The Daily Sentinel.

There was also a meeting of the Mesa County Democrats back on March 22. I do not recall seeing any local press coverage of that event. I visited the Dems webpage (http://www.mesacountydemocrats.org) and, if there was anything, I could find no information about the Mesa County Assembly there either. Perhaps it is possible that so little happened or is happening in the Democrat sphere that the Sentinel saw no need to cover it (and the Dems did not mention it online).

As for our majority Republican Party, they bored us with the obvious and yet amazed us at the same time. As for boring us with the obvious — they selected Scott McInnis overwhelmingly as their candidate to replace Steve Aquafresca on the Mesa County Commission. His opponents, Bill Pitts and Gregg Palmer, will now need to petition to get onto the ballot should they desire to continue the race. Pitts always acknowledged the expected outcome of the assembly and has vowed to fight on and to do so without a campaign structure and without funds. It is expected Palmer shall choose to sit out any continued struggle. McInnis promised to reignite our economy; we look forward to a specific platform to further that goal.



The surprise (at least to this outsider) was the narrow defeat of State Senator Steve King by John Pennington in the race for County Sheriff. The King surprise seemed also to come somewhat of a shock to many local insiders. King’s name will still appear on the ballot, but in the second-tier position rather than the anticipated top line. While King and his background are well known to most Mesa County voters, Pennington is lesser known.

Pennington made his announcement of candidacy at a meeting of the Mesa County Patriots, and finds his support among the Tea Party segment of the local party. Reportedly the Tea Party has such disdain for King they will support an unaffiliated candidate for sheriff should Pennington not be the candidate in the primary election. A review of Pennington’s qualifications and positions would lead this writer to believe he cannot prevail in an election outside the confines of the Republican Assembly.



As predicted, Coroner Dean Havlik’s switch to the Republican Party was not rewarded with great support. Havlik’s name shall also appear on the ballot along with that of previous coroner Rob Kurtzman, and this race is shaping up to be much more than a mere business dispute among previous business partners (as this writer first surmised). It appears there may be some significant questions raised as to how the office was best managed by whom and if the county is getting and has gotten the contractual performance for which it has paid. Again, Havlik will be somewhat hamstrung by the Republican Party faithful, who may be swayed more by questions as to his sincerity to party principles than job performance.

In the race to replace Ray Scott, out-going County Commissioner Steve Aquafresca finds himself sharing the ballot with Dan Thurlow who won the rights to the top of the ballot. Thurlow was a bit of a latecomer to the race and his ascendancy illustrates once again some discontent and intra-party dickering as to who shall control the reins of the local party.

Uncontested races included Sheila Reiner for Clerk and Recorder; Janice Rich for Treasurer, Ken Bromley for Assessor and Ray Scott for State Senate District 7. Scott will be challenged by Democrat Claudette Konola.

GJ Free Press columnist Jim Hoffman is a local Realtor and investor who, when not working, loves skiing, camping and fishing (in season). He may be reached at freepressjim@gmail.com.


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