County GOP backs McInnis
One establishment politician was coronated and others took it on the chin Saturday as delegates to the Mesa County Republican General Assembly voted to firm up slots for their June 24 primary ballot.
Candidates hoping to make it onto the ballot through the assembly process had to get at least 30 percent of the votes cast by the assembly.
Former Colorado Congressman Scott McInnis blew his competition out of the water, eliminating two rivals for an open seat on the Mesa County Board of County Commissioners.
McInnis received 193 votes, or 76 percent of those cast by the 255 Republican Party delegates who met at Central High School to set the ballot.
During his nominating speech, McInnis stepped out from behind the podium to proclaim his dedication to “reigniting the economy.” A phalanx of supporters holding campaign signs filled the area before the stage as he spoke.
“We’ve got business builders, but what we need is a county commission ... that understands we need to let them to do what they do best, which is to create wealth, to create jobs and to build businesses in this county,” McInnis said.
McInnis’ opponents, former Grand Junction mayors Bill Pitts and Gregg Palmer, each received less than 15 percent of the vote and will not appear on the primary ballot unless they attempt to petition their way on.
Candidates who received more than 10 percent of the vote at the assembly are allowed to gather signatures on a petition. Under state law, if they gather enough signatures, their names will also appear on the primary ballot.
In three other contested races, all of the candidates made it onto the ballot, but their names will not appear in the order some might have expected. The top vote-getter’s name appears first.
In the contested primary race for Mesa County Sheriff, for example, contender John Pennington attracted more support from delegates than current state Sen. Steve King.
“A lot of people ask me why I’m running for sheriff,” Pennington told the crowd. “(It’s because) we’re under attack from within. We’re losing our lands and our freedom ... We’re better than this. We don’t sit quietly. We give them a fight.”
Pennington called himself a “Constitutional sheriff” and accepted the endorsement of Richard Mack, a former Arizona sheriff who advocates forming an army of local sheriffs to turn back federal encroachment on local prerogatives.
“Elect a sheriff who will protect you from the crimes of federal bureaucracies,” Mack said. “How about the (Environmental Protection Agency)? The EPA destroys more jobs and more property rights than all of the criminal organizations put together.”
Pennington won 132 votes, or 52 percent of the delegates compared to King, who received 122 votes, or 48 percent.
In the Mesa County Coroner race, challenger Rob Kurtzman’s name will appear first on the ballot above incumbent Dean Havlik’s, because Kurtzman received nearly twice as many votes. Kurtzman won support from 65 percent of the delegates compared to Havlik’s 35 percent.
Havlik faced stiff opposition from delegates who questioned the sincerity of his late switch to the Republican Party.
Havlik told delegates that like Ronald Reagan, he switched to the Republican Party after he discovered Republican values were closer to his own rather than those of Democrats.
In the local race for the state House, current Mesa County Commissioner Steve Acquafresca garnered half the votes Dan Thurlow won, but both earned enough to appear on the June 24 ballot as candidates for the Colorado House of Representatives District 55 race.
Acquafresca won 43, or 33 percent of the votes. Dan Thurlow won 86, or 66 percent.
Republican candidates who went unchallenged in the primary were voted onto the June 24 ballot by acclimation:
■ Incumbent Sheila Reiner for Mesa County Clerk and Recorder;
■ Incumbent Janice Rich for Mesa County Treasurer;
■ Ken Brownlee for Mesa County Assessor;
■ Colorado Rep. Ray Scott for Colorado Senate District 7.