Delegates turn GOP politics 
upside down in two local races

Today is April Fool’s Day, a day traditionally reserved for playing tricks on the unsuspecting. Or was it last Saturday, when delegates to the Mesa County Republicans’ county assembly dealt some surprises to a couple of their longtime local politicos? 

Both Steve King and Steve Acquafresca walked into the gathering looking to be anointed to move on to other offices.  Now both are looking up to surprise candidates on the top line of the primary ballot in the races for Mesa County sheriff and for the District 55 seat in the Colorado House of Representatives.

Perhaps that wasn’t a surprise to some local GOP insiders. I suspect outsiders, including yours truly, were a bit blindsided by the outcomes.

Somewhere back in the dark ages of Mesa County politics, say when a current newspaper columnist could be a county commissioner, Dan Thurlow chaired the county’s Republican party. Since turning those chores over to others, save for an occasional letter to the editor, Dan’s been largely absent from any local political activity that would get his name in the news, instead concentrating on his businesses.

So, it was somewhat curious, a few days before leaving for our annual spring break jaunt to warmer climes, to see him mentioned as a possible challenger to Acquafresca. Even more surprising was seeing, when we returned last weekend, that he’d outpolled the sitting county commissioner 2-1 and earned top line on the primary ballot.

I’ve known Dan since our junior high school days here in Grand Junction. I suspect our politics are still as different as they were more than 20 years ago, when I first ran for local office. I’m also pretty certain the competitive drive he displayed as a high-school athlete and later in business will mean Acquafresca has his hands full in the battle for the legislative seat Ray Scott is vacating.

If the outcome of the Thurlow/Acquafresca showdown was a surprise, it’s safe to say John Pennington’s four-point margin over sitting state Sen. Steve King was a blow-your-hat-off shocker.

In the minds of more than a few observers, King has been running for sheriff ever since he first tossed his hat in the ring to be a legislator, biding his time as former Sheriff Riecke Claussen finished out his terms and heir-apparent Stan Hilkey completed his.

So, even though it’s not unknown for an impassioned challenger to turn things upside down in a small gathering, it has to be a bit disconcerting for a sitting state senator to finish second to someone who, if most of us were asked, would elicit a “who the hell is John Pennington?” response.

Turns out he’s someone likely to be the darling of the far right — someone who professes he’ll be a “constitutional sheriff” who’ll protect us from “the crimes of federal bureaucracies” like the Environmental Protection Agency. He touts the endorsement of a former Arizona sheriff, Richard Mack, who encourages local sheriffs to challenge federal authority. 

Just what we need, don’t you think — a bunch of local sheriffs intent on picking fights with the feds based upon their individual interpretations of federal laws and the Constitution. Unless you think busting criminals and operating a jail ought to be the primary responsibilities of local law enforcement.

Pennington’s candidacy, if it survives to the general election ballot, has the potential to set up another Jared Wright moment in local politics.

That’d be a situation where he’s the GOP nominee for sheriff and there’s no Democrat or other serious contender, putting him into office by default. While local Democrats have done a better job of filling slots on the ballot this election cycle, there’s no “D” candidate in the sheriff’s race.

There’s an important caveat to victories by Thurlow and Pennington this past weekend. It’s one thing to end up on top at a gathering of about 250 party activists. But the bigger challenge is emerging victorious in the primary, where vote tallies are in the thousands. 

A betting man would likely still put his money on King being the GOP nominee for sheriff. But Thurlow’s overwhelming margin at the assembly, coupled with local roots and a longtime party history, makes for an interesting call.

Jim Spehar knows better than to be surprised by much that happens in local politics. Your thoughts are welcome at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


COMMENTS

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>
> Mr Pennington’s candidacy will only become a Jared Wright moment in local politics if the Republican Party
> is dead set on repeating earlier mistakes. It is well past time for them to wake up and take notice that
> many have left the Grand Old Party in recent years.They are so dead set on being the ones to pick the
> candidates and telling us those are the only choices the voters have if they want to beat the Democrats.
>
> Isn’t it about time to allow the people to choose who they want to support? Why not a real election where
> there are several names on the ballot. And yes, come on Democrats, get your people out there and get more
> names on your side of the ballot. Isn’t that what elections are supposed to be about?
>
> Put them all out there for scrutiny, let their record and deeds show us who they are, and then let the best man win.

There are a large number of concerning issues to voters in Mesa County and the delegates last Saturday certainly are some of those voters.
First, I see that here and all across America the number of Party registered voters are moving to Independent or Unaffiliated or don’t even vote anymore. Here in Colorado the term “Unaffiliated” means the parties are the central theme of politics and these voters don’t belong rather than “Independent” meaning each voter has his or her own vote. Across America, 47% of voters do not belong to either of the two major political parties.
Why? They have figured it out that those parties are more similar than different.

There are a number of concerning issues to voters in Mesa County, the delegates last Saturday certainly are some of those voters.
First, I see that here and all across America the number of Party registered voters are moving to Independent or Unaffiliated or don’t even vote anymore. Here in Colorado the term “Unaffiliated” means the parties are the central theme of politics and these voters don’t belong rather than “Independent” meaning each voter has his or her own vote. Across America, 47% of voters do not belong to either of the two major political parties.
Why? They have figured it out that those parties are more similar than different.
Many Party voters vote only the party slate but quite a few vote independently or not at all. NEVER THE LESS, PARTIES SERVE THE PARTY NOT THE PEOPLE. Voters are tired of being given only a choice at the polls of the lesser of two evils. They are tired of professional politicians whose vote clearly rejects the needs, wants or the will of the people. Currently, a candidate need only a vote of less than 6% of voters to win election because Independent/Unaffiliated voters are banned from primary processes and have no say in selecting candidates.
Second is the people prefer candidates of integrity rather than accept politician’s empty campaign promises not fulfilled where the voters see them as lies. The sentinel would have us believe this makes the voters “far to the Right” Is that a reasonable view of those that reject lies?
Next, let’s talk about the two approaches to public safety by police. The first is the kind of cop or sheriff that sees enforcement is the only way to provide safety, a job well done. The other is the cop or sheriff that sees protecting the people as the job of public safety. In my view it takes both to be an outstanding officer but if I had to choose only one I would choose the second as being more in tune with the prescripts of our declaration of Independence and the Constitutions of our nation and state.
Rusty Price

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