GarCo vote tainted, candidate says

Outside groups upset Democrat who lost commission race

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — The race for two Garfield County commissioner seats is over, but not the debate over the role that outside political groups played in this year’s campaign.

Republicans narrowly defeated Democrats in both races. In unofficial final results, with 330 provisional ballots still to be counted, incumbent John Martin edged Stephen Bershenyi 11,030 to 10,680, while Mike Samson beat
Steve Carter 11,143 to 10,485 in a race for an open seat.

Carter said he is “reasonably confident” he will file a complaint with the Secretary of State’s Office over last-minute campaign materials that were sent out by outside groups and contained what he called “blatant fabrications” about his position on illegal immigration.

He suspects recent mailings attacking him and Bershenyi may have helped alter their races’ outcomes because a count of early votes had them ahead, but they fell behind when ballots cast on Tuesday were counted.

“It completely sours an election when people get away with that, because you can’t redo the election,” Carter said.

Democrats, in particular, have been concerned during much of the campaign by the emergence of 527 organizations and other outside groups that have been conducting independent advertising on behalf of candidates. In some cases, organizations have not registered with the state or disclosed their sources of funding.

Within the past week, an organization identifying itself as the Western Slope Independent mailed voters what was presented as a newspaper called the Garfield County Post. One article accused Carter of supporting making Garfield a sanctuary county for illegal immigrants, and a second asserted Bershenyi had profited from the sale of a ranch in the Glenwood Springs area for development shortly after working with a citizens group to oppose a nearby development. Bershenyi said the ranch was not his, but a relative’s, and he gained nothing from the deal.

Carter was the subject of a recent mailer reiterating the sanctuary city allegation, which he says isn’t true.

Martin on Wednesday repeated his contention that Republicans and Democrats alike have been the subject of negative advertising.

“All of this big money coming in, it hurts everybody,” he said.

Pro-energy-industry and environmental groups have spent tens of thousands of dollars in the races to decide who will help run the county that leads the state in natural gas drilling.


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