Open primary would serve voters better

The 2012 election may still be 10 months in the future, but the political scramble is well under way, not just in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, but in the battle for Mesa County commissioner seats.

That battle was on display Wednesday evening when the Grand Junction Area Realtor Association hosted a discussion among the seven candidates — five Republicans and two independents — running for the District 1 Mesa County Commissioner post. The seat is currently held by Republican Craig Meis, who is term-limited.

On Feb. 1, the Realtors group will host a meeting for the three Republicans running for the District 3 seat now held by Republican Janet Rowland.

Also on display at the Wednesday gathering was this fact: Candidates seeking to represent citizens of Mesa County offered a variety of viewpoints on several local policy issues.

Unfortunately, the majority of voters in the county won’t get to decide which of these candidates moves forward. For most office-seekers, the future of their campaigns will be decided at GOP county caucuses next month, meetings attended by a relatively small number of party members.

Here’s a few issues where there are definite choices:

Do voters believe it’s time to end the decades-long, multi-agency effort to preserve buffer zones between Grand Junction and Fruita and Clifton and Palisade in order to encourage development? One of the Republican candidates, Christi Flynn, said she thinks it is time to do so.

Should the county be able to use a form of debt financing known as certificates of participation — as it did to purchase and remodel the new Central Services building opening this month at First and Main streets — or should such financing only be available upon voter approval. There were “No,” “Yes” and “Maybe” answers from the candidates in attendance at the Realtors gathering.

There were also differing opinions on the best way to pay for improvements in Clifton and Fruitvale, on offering bid preferences to local contractors and on changing Colorado National Monument to a national park.

This cornucopia of candidates should be a boon to county voters, allowing them to learn about the candidates and support those most closely aligned with their views. However, many of the candidates will be gone after next month’s Republican caucuses, and few people in Mesa County will have the opportunity to vote for or against them.

Some who don’t make it through the caucus system may petition their way onto the primary election ballot, but not every candidate has the resources to do so.

A decade ago, Coloradans rejected an amendment that would have eliminated the caucus system and changed the primary process so that all candidates would petition their way onto the ballot and be voted on by all members of that party.

Such a system remains more open and available to all voters than the caucus system, which is dominated by party activists. We hope Colorado will one day move away from the caucuses and adopt a more open primary process.


COMMENTS

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I couldn’t agree more. Having an open primary would be especially beneficial in areas (such as the Grand Valley) dominated by one political party.

The caucuses are open to the public. The only requirement is that the participant be registered to vote and affiliated with the party. Then those participants determine which neighbors will represent them at the county assembly, and its those who participate in the county assembly who determines, by vote, which candidates will be on the ballot.

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