Two unaffiliated candidates hope to make noise in Mesa County Commission District 1 race
They weren’t invited to participate in the Colorado Mesa University Republicans’ candidate forum last month.
They sat and watched as their Republican and Democratic counterparts made their pitches and gained notoriety during party caucuses and assemblies.
Now Jana Gerow and John Leane get their turn to try to drum up support in the hopes that one of them will become the first unaffiliated candidate to be elected Mesa County commissioner in nearly 40 years.
Monday marked the first day that Gerow and Leane could begin collecting signatures to petition onto the November ballot.
They each must turn in 750 signatures by June 4 to get onto the ballot.
Should they be successful, they’ll go up against the winner of the primary matchup between Republicans Ken Henry and John Justman in a bid to replace term-limited District 1 commissioner Craig Meis.
Gerow and Leane acknowledge they have a challenge in front of them in a Republican-heavy county, but they’re banking on voters’ unhappiness with both sides of the political aisle and their pledge to represent all citizens to give them an edge.
“If there ever is a year for unaffiliated candidates, I think this is the year. There’s tremendous dissatisfaction with the political parties,” Leane said.
Both were affiliated previously.
Leane was a Democrat for decades, including when he served as commissioner from 1989 to 1993.
Gerow was a Democrat while she lived on the Front Range before switching to the GOP 14 years ago.
Both ended their political party affiliations last year.
Gerow said the county commissioner position should be elected based on the individual and the issues, not the political party.
“I’m tired of the fact that I think we’re discriminating against people based on the letter behind their name. I don’t want to be in any way guilty of that,” she said.
Leane said Mesa County has been a one-party county for a long time, and he wants to make the election a “November contest instead of a November coronation of whoever happened to be the Republican nominee.”
“I want to be a commissioner for the whole county,” he said. “I want to be a commissioner that represents people not only from all locations in the county, but all political affiliations in the county.”
Gerow, the owner of Development Construction Services, said she advertises herself by going door-to-door. She plans to attend events on Grand Mesa and in Gateway later this month and establish an office at 619 Main St.
Leane, who coordinates the Grand Junction Parks and Recreation Department’s softball program, said campaign staff and friends will circulate petitions.
He hopes to submit enough signatures by May 1, then turn his focus to campaign issues.
The last unaffiliated candidate to be elected to the commission was Howard Roland in 1975, according to Mesa County spokeswoman Jessica Peterson.
He served one term.