Bad blood once again in Montrose city election
Dark clouds are forming over Montrose’s city election this spring, and the storm that’s brewing may be worse than in previous elections, candidates there said.
While the three city seats up for election April 6 have their share of contenders, Montrose’s at-large spot pits two old adversaries — former state Rep. Ray Rose, a Republican, and former Montrose County Commissioner Bill Patterson, a Democrat — in what is supposed to be a nonpartisan race.
The two were embroiled in a controversy over an attempted recall of Patterson in 2007. Five years earlier, Rose had defeated Patterson when he was first elected to the Colorado House.
Though Rose said he had nothing to do with Patterson’s recall effort, which never made the ballot because of insufficient signatures, he did publicly speak out against the commissioner and even asked the local district attorney to investigate possible malfeasance charges against him.
“A group of citizens had come to me with evidence of wrongdoing,” Rose said. “They asked me to help them with an investigation. I turned it over to the district attorney, but nothing ever came of it.”
Patterson, however, said Rose was a willing pawn in the long-running saga between the Montrose County Commission and Stephen Stuhmer, the owner of JetAway Aviation.
It all began when Stuhmer lost a bid in 2005 to become a fixed-based operator for jet services and fuel at the Montrose Regional Airport, which the county owns. The two sides have since been involved in an antitrust lawsuit over the bid that went to JetAway competitor Black Canyon Jet Center. The case is pending.
During that time, Stuhmer paid for numerous campaign ads through a political group he formed, Citizens for Responsive Government, attacking Patterson during his 2008 re-election bid. The ads also called for voters to elect his Republican opponent, Ron Henderson, who won the race, even though JetAway manager Brent Wallace also was in the race.
Last year, a state administrative law judge fined Stuhmer and his group $6,550 for failing to report campaign expenditures, according to documents in the Secretary of State’s Office. A second group, Patterson Recall Committee, was similarly fined $9,750.
Montrose City Clerk Teri Colvin said Tuesday that Stuhmer’s group had not filed paperwork listing it as a political committee. The group is required to file by law if it spends more than $200, she said.
Stuhmer is set to run yet another negative ad against Patterson, this time in The Daily Sentinel, though the ad has been delayed a couple of times for unknown reasons. Stuhmer paid for the ad and asked and later rescinded that he be listed as its secretary. Repeated attempts to contact him Monday and Tuesday failed.
Patterson said he estimates Stuhmer has spent at least $50,000 in ads, attorney fees and fines in his efforts against him, and he can’t figure out why Stuhmer and his group keep coming after him.
“I guess it’s because I’m the only one who would really stand up to him,” said Patterson, a pilot and former Navy airplane mechanic who runs his own rock drill company in town. “Stephen Stuhmer from a business standpoint is the type of person that you don’t do business with other than on a cash basis. All of the (county commission) decisions that were made were made by a board of three, of which I was only one. So the idea that I personally did all this is totally false.”
Wallace ended up coming in third in the 2008 commission race behind Henderson and Patterson. He’s now in a three-way race for District I on the five-member Montrose City Council.
A third unaffiliated candidate in the city’s at-large race, Pat Treacy, said she hopes the feud between Patterson, Rose and JetAway’s Stuhmer produces a similar result: turn voters off enough so the third candidate in the race wins it.
“People from outside of town have asked me: What the heck’s going on there?” she said. “I’m hoping the two ultimately will cancel each other out. People here have told me they’re glad I’m giving them another choice.”