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Roaring Fork Valley, Garfield County together in post-census state House map plan; Senate districts shift in latest plan

A post-U.S. Census plan to redraw the state’s legislative district boundaries would create an all-Roaring Fork Valley and Garfield County Colorado House District 57.

At the same time, the plans put forth by staff for formal consideration by the Independent Legislative Redistricting Commission splits Garfield County into two Senate districts.

The latest plan is slated to be formally presented to the Redistricting Commission on Tuesday, and has current HD 57 Rep. Perry Will of New Castle remaining in the same district he now represents.

The newly drawn House district would include all of Garfield and Pitkin counties, along with the small portion of Eagle County that’s in the Roaring Fork Valley.

However, the new plan moves current Senate District 8 representative, Sen. Bob Rankin of Carbondale, into the newly redrawn SD 5. The district would include the Garfield County communities of Carbondale, Glenwood Springs and Rifle, plus all of Pitkin, Eagle, Lake and Summit counties.

As with the concurrent Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission process, which underwent even more changes Monday in part to try to appease Western Slope concerns, the state legislative plan is a work in progress.

The new state Senate and House plans were prepared using 2020 Census data, factoring in public comments and input from the Legislative Redistricting Commission.

The plans are to be presented during a virtual meeting to the commission at noon Tuesday. The commission is required to approve the final plan by Oct. 11.

The first staff map represents a fairly radical departure from a preliminary map released in June that had taken the section of Garfield County south of Interstate 70 and put it in House District 55.

The new plan factors in population changes across the state, in an effort to try to maintain equal population in each of the state House and Senate districts.

Garfield County commissioners had opposed the previous state legislative district map, saying it failed to keep communities of interest and counties whole.

As with the congressional district boundaries, which is complicated by the creation of a new 8th Congressional District, it’s all subject to more tweaking before a final plan is settled on later this fall.

County commissioners have yet to formally weigh in on the latest state redistricting map, but did express serious concerns about the direction of the congressional redistricting map at their regular Monday meeting in Silt.

The first staff plan released Sept. 3 split the Western Slope between Congressional Districts 2 and 3, putting Rifle, Silt and New Castle in with the Front Range population centers of Boulder, Broomfield and Longmont.

“The Western Slope should not be divided,” Commissioner Mike Samson of Rifle said. “I feel like we’re being ripped off as a constituency through gerrymandering and politics being played with Colorado.”

An afternoon meeting of the Congressional Redistricting Commission made it clear that the process of coming up with a map that works is more about dealing with the latest population data, while also attempting to maintain communities of interest.

After a long discussion, the commission forwarded a new proposed map to staff to use as a starting point. It keeps Garfield County, as well as most of the Western Slope, together in CD 3.

A second staff plan is scheduled to be released Thursday which is expected to reflect that change. Another Congressional Redistricting Commission meeting is set for Sept. 20.

Much the same process is about to play out with regards to state legislative district boundaries, so nothing is set in stone.

Alex Sanchez, executive director of Voces Unidas in Glenwood Springs, has been vocal on the state and congressional redistricting process in the interest of fair representation for Latino residents.

Sanchez said Monday that his organization also was opposed to splitting the Western Slope between two congressional districts, and would prefer to see the region kept whole.

The new Colorado House District 57, as configured in the plan released Monday, accomplishes a primary goal of Voces Unidas, he said, in that it includes the entire region from Parachute to Aspen in one district.

The Eagle River Valley is also better represented by the latest House map, he said. However, the new Senate District 5 would exclude New Castle, he noted, which fails in keeping the valley connected, he said.

“I believe that could be repaired,” he said, adding he plans to participate in the upcoming virtual public hearings on the state redistricting plan.

The Legislative Redistricting Commission will hold virtual public hearings on Friday and Saturday. Individuals who want to testify are asked to sign up in advance.

These will be the final hearings regarding state redistricting, however written public comments can still be submitted.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

Lead up to Wheeler money question ‘a flawed process’

The angst, consternation and harmed relationships among Aspen’s elected officials in deciding to send a ballot question to voters asking to repurpose Wheeler Opera House money could be an indication of how the measure will do at the polls.

The process leading up to Aspen City Council’s Sept. 3 decision was so flawed that two board members who were in the minority took an unusual step by calling a special meeting to reconsider the previous vote taken three days prior.

“I do not want to send a ballot to the citizens that was railroaded through the council without the full participation of all five members of the council,” said Councilman Ward Hauenstein, who along with Councilwoman Rachel Richards, called the Sept. 3 special meeting.

They did that because after debating the issue Aug. 31, the council was deadlocked 2-2 on sending a ballot question to voters.

Absent from that meeting was Councilman Skippy Mesirow, who was on vacation but called into the meeting virtually after his colleagues, members of the arts community and the public had had an hour and a half of discussion without him.

Despite Hauenstein and Richards objecting to Mesirow casting a vote during the Aug. 31 meeting because he had not participated in the public hearing, he voted anyway.

Mayor Torre didn’t attempt to stop Mesirow from voting or suggest a continuance, which was to Torre’s benefit since Mesirow was on his side to send the question to voters asking them to repurpose real estate transfer tax revenue from the Wheeler to other arts endeavors in the community.

Councilman John Doyle, who was considered the swing vote, was in the hot seat for the 72 hours in between the meetings, and felt pressure as he was individually lobbied by his colleagues to vote on their side.

Sept. 3’s meeting didn’t change the outcome from the Aug. 31 vote, which was 3-2 to approve an ordinance and resolution sending the question to voters.

Aspen City Council members pose for a photo in Conner Memorial Park in June 2021.
Carolyn Sackariason / The Aspen Times

On vacation

The reason for Aug. 31 meeting was to benefit Richards, who was on vacation during the Aug. 24 public hearing, which was scheduled to be the second reading of the ordinance and council’s final vote.

Having two council members unavailable leading up to the Sept. 3 deadline set by the Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder’s Office to get a question on the ballot clearly was problematic not only for those who were available but also for members of the public interested in the issue.

“We are in the last week of being able to even consider this so running up against that timeline is very difficult,” Torre said during the Aug. 31 meeting. “We’ve had council members that are out of town and pushing us up against the wall, and I understand not being comfortable with moving forward for different reasons.”

Hauenstein, who favored having a ballot question in fall of 2022 after making sure the city had funding in place for mental health and child care, said process matters to him.

“If we had all five council members here on (Aug. 24), and we had a vote, I’d be disappointed by the outcome, but I could live with it,” he said. “If we had all five council members here for the whole discussion on (Aug. 31), I could’ve lived with it, and I wouldn’t have lost sleep over it, wouldn’t have been stressed, and I wouldn’t have felt it had done harm between me and other members of council and staff.”

Mesirow during the Aug. 24 meeting chastised leaders of Aspen’s arts and culture organizations for not being present to publicly give their support toward the ballot question this fall, even though they had previously done so.

Alan Fletcher, president and CEO of the Aspen Music Festival and School, addressed his absence during the Aug. 31 meeting, the one that Mesirow missed.

“We are sorry that it appeared that we didn’t care enough. We were in the last week of an epic summer in which we actually created historically important content,” Fletcher said. “I think no one in the entire world of classical music accomplished what we accomplished this summer so the fact that we weren’t at the meeting last week, which was reported by council members and by the press, just makes my head shake.”

The situation had Hauenstein shaking his head as well.

“The process on Aug. 31 was deeply flawed and forwards a tainted approval for the voters and arts, and it divides council support and harms future council relations,” he said Sept. 3. “It has been a really stressful time for me, and if I’ve created any wedges or strains in relationships, I apologize, but it’s been a really difficult few days.”

Roadblocks ahead?

Even though council has been discussing a potential ballot question repurposing the RETT since the beginning of the year, Richards and Hauenstein said they feel it would’ve been more appropriate in fall 2022 when it’s been more flushed out and thus, more sellable to Aspen voters, of which 60% must vote yes in order for the question to pass.

Perhaps the biggest roadblock that Richards sees in convincing voters in the next 45 days is that the city’s polling conducted in August suggested the measure won’t pass.

Council directed City Manager Sara Ott to hire a polling firm for $12,000 and the results should not be ignored, Richards argued at the Sept. 3 meeting.

“It tells you whether it’s a go or a no go, and I don’t think it was given the weight that it deserves in terms of translating it to what happens, not just the science or the theory of a polling, or how many people you reach, but it told us who we needed to have vote, over-vote in mass to succeed in this election,” she said. “I have come to the conclusion I cannot put my name on the campaign and ask people to volunteer their time, their money, their reputation on an issue that I believe is going to fail.”

Torre said at the Aug. 31 meeting that he thinks the time is now to ask voters, regardless of what the poll results are.

“I think this is an issue that you put out what you put in, I think positivity would make this go the way we want it to go but again, if it doesn’t, I’m OK with that because I want people to have a choice,” he said. “These are items that people are interested in and so the poll and politicizing is not where I come from. … I would love to send it to the electorate and have them make their decision.”

Mesirow acknowledged Richards’ almost 30 years of elections experience in Aspen, but the poll also suggests that less frequent voters and young residents are supportive of the measure.

He said he wasn’t planning on doing a heavy lift on campaigning for the ballot question, but it could be an opportunity for the council to work together and in that instance, he would work harder.

Richards was not persuaded.

“That’s a great offer to come now after we heard you weren’t planning on putting a heavy lift in before,” she said at the Sept. 3 meeting.

She pointed to two prior city initiated ballot questions that were passed along to voters by a divided council.

The first was in 2003 when voters denied a question asking to buy the Mother Lode restaurant building for $3.25 million as a future expansion of the Wheeler Opera House.

The second was the controversial Lift One proposal that passed in 2019 with a margin of 26 votes, leaving the community divided on allowing 320,000 square feet of commercial space at the base of Aspen Mountain’s west side.

“I think that has left some sores that have not gone away, and I have to stop and think what if those two minority members had been listened to and it wasn’t sent to the ballot and it was delayed and there had been more time in order to get the right-sized project and to get the right amount of affordable housing,” Richards said. “It hurt our community, and I think that lingers and the question now is do we model that behavior going forward?”


Mike Schultheis, general superintendent of Summit Sealants and Restoration, points out the areas replaced on the arches at the top of the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen on Wednesday, March 24, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

A decade of analysis paralysis

Repurposing a portion of the RETT, which stands at $40 million in the Wheeler’s coffers, has been a conversation previous councils have agonized over for more than a decade.

The current council agrees that there are pressing needs in the community that the RETT could pay for, as well as more funding for the arts, since the revenue source originally passed by voters in 1979 has a cap of $100,000 annually to local cultural organizations.

But how much to divert, how much to leave for the historic opera house and where the future revenue goes has not been decided.

The majority of council earlier this year had favored waiting until fall 2022 to ask a RETT diversion question but then a group of citizens in July tried to put a citizen referendum on this fall’s ballot that would’ve removed the $100,000 cap and approved a $10 million grant to the Aspen School District to upgrade and renovate the 550-seat Aspen District Theater and 150-seat black box space.

The group was unsuccessful in getting the required amount of signatures from Aspen voters, but the effort made some elected officials nervous and it forced their hand to make a move now.

“This is heartbreaking for me,” Richards said during the Aug. 31 meeting. “I thought we would be able to do this, but I don’t just dismiss a poll and go on fantasy thinking.”

The council also hasn’t had a formal conversation or meeting with the Wheeler board of directors about the ballot question.

The citizen board has several concerns about the ballot language, including that it isn’t restrictive enough in defining what exactly are “cultural, visual and performing arts” and that council would have too much power to spend down the Wheeler fund, according to Chip Fuller, chair of the Wheeler board in an Aug. 31 email to council.

This fall’s ballot question asks that a portion of the RETT be repurposed to the Red Brick Center for the Arts, which currently is supported by the city’s general fund and asset management plan fund.

Eliminating the general fund as a source of support for the Red Brick would allow the city to use it to pay its remaining $2.1 million in outstanding certificates of participation for the Isis Theater, which is in financial peril.

The ballot question also asks that it removes the cap on the annual $100,000 set aside for arts and culture grants to local nonprofits, and opens it up more broadly to the cultural, visual and performing arts.

“To me this question is not perfect, I don’t know that I’ve ever looked at a ballot question that was perfect, but to me this identifies and works for a solution on three items,” Torre said in the Sept. 3 meeting. “This gives us greater access to programming and supplies even to kids and adults, this is the community support in the Red Brick. This is not just about arts, this is about our community.”



New congressional redistricting map puts Boebert in redrawn CD2 with Neguse

Colorado 3rd Congressional District Rep. Lauren Boebert inside Glenwood Springs City Hall following an August meeting with city official regarding federal funding for Glenwood Canyon I-70 repairs.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

DENVER (AP) — Colorado’s nonpartisan redistricting commission has proposed a congressional map that would lump conservative firebrand Rep. Lauren Boebert of Rifle into a Boulder-based, solidly Democratic seat currently held by liberal Rep. Joe Neguse.

The proposal also would create a new swing seat in the northern Denver suburbs.

The commission staff proposal came Friday. It would rearrange the political geography as part of the once-a-decade redistricting process. It’s the first test of the nonpartisan commission model approved by voters in 2018.

Staff had released a possible congressional map in June that kept the Western Slope together in the 3rd District, but Friday’s was its first drawn off the official, newly released Census data that is required to be used for redistricting.

The map will be followed by a series of hearings, along with a map of state legislative districts. Both may change significantly in the weeks to come, as the commission races to meet an end-of-the-month deadline to approve maps.

The congressional map keeps the four Democratic seats relatively safe, as well as preserving three as solidly Republican. It would add a new swing seat running from Adams County to Greeley that voted Democratic by 1.9 percentage points in last year’s Senate election.

That could make the final breakdown of the state’s congressional districts 4-4, an underwhelming split for Democrats in a state they won by 13 points in last year’s presidential election.

Still, Democrats see the map as an improvement over the initial map, which had a similar partisan division. This one splits the conservative western slope into two separate districts. Grand Junction and below stay in the 3rd congressional district, now stretching out to the southeastern plains, Pueblo and Huerfano County. Boebert, a Republican, represents that district, but her home in Garfield County would now go into a northern district stretching to the Wyoming border with most of its population in the liberal bastions of Boulder and Fort Collins.

“The new process is designed to gather public comment to improve upon the preliminary plan and, at first blush, this map seems to have moved in that direction,” said Curtis Hubbard, a Democratic strategist.

Boebert has the option to move south back into her district or even run for her seat there from her home next door if she didn’t want to face the liberal voters of the new district.

Republicans were steamed at how the proposal divides rural Colorado, but acknowledged that, from a partisan position, they are in decent shape.

“As a Coloradan, I hate the map,” said former State Sen. Greg Brophy, who lives in Wray. “As a Republican, it could be a lot worse.”

Closer to home, the new draft map also splits Garfield County. Glenwood Springs and Carbondale would remain in the 3rd Congressional District with Eagle and Pitkin counties. The remainder of Garfield County would be in CD2 along with Rio Blanco, Moffat, Routt, Jackson, Grand, Summit, Boulder and Larimer counties.

Garfield County commissioners weighed in earlier this summer requesting that the redistricting commission keep two distinctly rural congressional districts on the Western Slope and the Eastern Plains. They also objected to the separate state legislative redistricting commission’s map that removed local state Rep. Perry Will of New Castle from Colorado House District 57, which he currently represents.

The Colorado Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission will hold virtual public hearings Tuesday through Friday. Individuals must sign up in advance to testify. These hearings will be the final opportunity for members of the public to speak to the redistricting commissions, according to a Friday news release from the redistricting commission.

Written public comments will remain open and available through the public hearing process and the consideration of final maps, the release states.

After the hearings conclude, the commission can approve a final plan and submit it to the Supreme Court at any time up until Sept. 28.

Glenwood Springs Post Independent staff contributed to this report.

State Rep. Roberts announces run for Colorado Senate seat that includes Pitkin, Eagle counties

State Rep Dylan Roberts, D-Avon, speaks on the benefits of the Continue Alcohol Beverage Takeout And Delivery bill signed by Colo. Gov. Jared Polis on June 21 at Northside Kitchen in Avon. Roberts is running for the state Senate seat that Vail’s Kerry Donovan will vacate due to term limits in 2022.
Chris Dillmann/cdillmann@vaildaily.com

State Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Avon, has filed to run for the Colorado Senate in the mountain-area district. As currently proposed, the senate district would include the counties of Chaffee, Clear Creek, Eagle, Gilpin, Gunnison, Lake, Pitkin, and Summit.

State Rep. Dylan Roberts of Avon on Tuesday morning announced his candidacy for the Colorado State Senate in the mountain-area district. The district is currently represented by term-limited Sen. Kerry Donovan, of Vail, and is up for election in 2022.

Roberts is in his second term representing Eagle County and Routt County in the Colorado State House. In the 2021 session, Roberts sponsored the Colorado Health Insurance Option, a bill more than two years in the making that creates a first-of-its kind state-regulated health insurance plan for every Coloradan on the individual and small group market that requires private insurance companies reduce premiums by 15% by 2025.

Donovan was also a champion of the legislation, and both Eagle County lawmakers were on the Capitol steps when Gov. Jared Polis signed the bill into law.

Flanked by Lt. Governor Dianne Primavera, Rep. Dylan Roberts, Sen. Kerry Donovan, Rep. Iman Jodeh, Speaker Alec Garnett, patients and advocates, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signs two health care bills into law June 16 on the steps of the Capitol.
Ali Cox/Special to the Daily

Roberts has also championed legislation that protects water resources, promotes economic development in rural areas, and lowers the cost of prescription drugs, including his first-in-the-nation laws reigning in the cost of life-sustaining insulin for people with diabetes.

“It has been a true honor to represent Eagle County and Routt County in the State House. I am proud of my record as a State Representative — passing 70 bills into law, 97% of them with bipartisan support,” Roberts said in a statement. “I look forward to bringing my record of legislative success and passion for the High Country to the state Senate and continue to get things done for the people of Colorado.”

Roberts said he will continue to address the district’s key challenges, including the rising cost of living, health care, housing and child care. He said he will push for new legislation to protect the environment and water, address climate change, and promote the region’s economic and workforce needs.

“There is more work to do,” said Roberts. “I am running for the state Senate to ensure our mountain communities recover from the pandemic and remain a place where people can live, work, and raise their families.”

Donovan, who is running to unseat Lauren Boebert in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District in the 2022 race, was quick to offer her endorsement for Roberts to fill the seat she is leaving.

“It has been an honor to serve as this district’s state Senator over the past seven years and I could not think of a better person to succeed me in this office than Dylan Roberts,” she said in a statement. “Together we have tackled the district’s important issues like health care costs, rural broadband, water, and protecting our public lands. We have work still to do and I know Dylan will continue to fight for our communities. I am proud to endorse Dylan to be our next state Senator.

United States Congressman Joe Neguse also endorsed Roberts, saying “I am proud to support my friend Dylan Roberts for the Colorado State Senate. Dylan has been a tireless advocate for his constituents in the State House, passing legislation to make health care more affordable, protect water resources on the Western Slope, and much more. I know Dylan will continue to serve his community well, and I hope you will join me in supporting his campaign for State Senate.”

Julie McCluskie, who represents Summit, Lake, Pitkin and Gunnison counties in the State House also offered up her support.

“Dylan and I both represent our rural and mountain communities in the State House and it has been a privilege to partner with him on some of the most important issues facing our communities,” McCluskie said in a statement. “Whether it is tackling the high cost of health insurance and insulin, leading the charge to protect Colorado’s water and environment, or standing up for rural Colorado’s needs, it has been an honor to work with Dylan. I strongly support my friend Dylan to become our next State Senator for Colorado’s mountain communities.”

Summit County, all of Eagle County would move into 3rd Congressional District under new redistricting plan

Goodbye, Joe Neguse. Hello, Lauren Boebert?

Summit County could move from the 2nd to the 3rd Congressional District under a preliminary map drawn by nonpartisan redistricting staff and presented to the state’s Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission on Wednesday.

The third district, represented by Boebert, a Republican from Garfield County, would gain all of Eagle County, as well as Summit, Grand, Park, Teller and Fremont counties and some of western Boulder County. Most of those counties were previously in the 2nd Congressional District, which is represented by Neguse.

The map is a major first step in the state’s once-a-decade redistricting process. It will evolve as the commission gets input from the public and interest groups over the next few months.

The preliminary map is based on 2019 U.S. Census Bureau estimates because of a monthslong delay in the release of the final population data collected during the 2020 Census. Once the U.S. Census Bureau releases that data in August, redistricting staff will have to adjust the map.

Colorado’s population grew 14.5% from 2010 to 2020, making it one of six states that will get at least one new congressional seat in 2022 due to population gains.

This year marks the first time independent commissions created by Amendment Y and a companion ballot question, Amendment Z, are overseeing the redistricting process in Colorado. In the past, state lawmakers drew the congressional lines, though they often deadlocked and courts decided on the final districts.

Going green: Renewable energy advocates have transformed Holy Cross Energy’s election debates

Flowers and vegetation bloom solar panels in Carbondale with a view of Mount Sopris on Friday, May 29, 2020. The solar farm is one of several renewable energy projects that Holy Cross Energy has tapped for its power supply. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Thirteen years after renewable energy advocates mounted a takeover of Holy Cross Energy’s board of directors, their mission appears complete.

A current mail-in election for three board seats attracted 10 candidates (see information box for more on the candidates). Of that field, five candidates embraced renewable energy as the central message in campaign material. Two other candidates make renewable energy a prominent part of their platform. Two others focus on smart business approaches, while one questions how smart meter technology affects health.

Board elections used to feature debates about how fast the cooperative should switch from power produced from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Now, the debate is focused on getting Holy Cross to its goal of 100% renewable energy by 2030. Aspen Skiing Co. played a big role in refocusing HCE.

Skico started recruiting environmentally oriented candidates and making endorsements starting in the 2008 election. Despite mixed results, the board is now packed with renewable energy enthusiasts.

“They’re hugely progressive,” said Auden Schendler, Skico’s senior vice president for sustainability and community engagement, referring to HCE’s staff and board. He cited a list of accomplishments that include setting the 100% renewable energy target, planning for divestment of their ownership interest in the Comanche 3 coal-fired plant, encouraging development of energy efficiency and solar on individual homes and installing smart meters.

Schendler makes endorsements in the races, just as he has since 2008. But he clearly supports the direction Holy Cross has taken, which includes the hiring of renewable energy champion Bryan Hannegan as president and CEO.

“They’re one of the best rural co-ops in the country,” Schendler said. “And they will likely get to their mid-term goals faster than they say. Meanwhile, the whole time they’ve kept rates very low, stable, and are improving power reliability through smart metering.

“They are community leaders,” he continued. “I mean, what more do we want out of these guys?”

Allen Best, a veteran journalist who focuses on energy and water transitions in Colorado, said Holy Cross has set one of the more ambitious goals for renewable energy among power producers.

“It is without parallel in Colorado,” he said.

Best believes it comes as little surprise that nearly all the candidates in the current election are promoting renewable energy sources.

“The debate about coal is over, with the exception of Comanche 3,” he said. “All the coal plants will be closed by 2030. The economics of renewables have made coal yesterday’s story.”

The debate is how much of a role natural gas-fueled power plants will continue to play into the future, he said.

Best believes there is “always room on the board” for different voices, in this case meaning someone who is skeptical about the rush to 100% renewables.

“If they have well-articulated questions, that’s useful,” he said.

Best is taking a look at the Holy Cross races and other energy cooperative elections in his Big Pivots newsletter this week. To subscribe, he can be contacted at allen.best@comcast.net.

Holy Cross Energy serves customers in the Roaring Fork, Eagle and Lower Colorado River valleys. Ballots were mailed to members last week and must be received by mail no later than June 10.

3 seats, 10 candidates

Holy Cross Energy is currently holding a mail election for three seats. Members must return their ballots by June 10.

There are three candidates for one seat in Holy Cross Energy’s southern district, which includes a large portion of the Roaring Fork Valley. The candidates in that race are Robert Gardner, Brian Davies and Brian Rose. The winner will serve a four-year term.

There are seven candidates for two positions in the northern district. The candidates are Roseann Casey, Keith Klesner, Kristen Bertuglia, G. Andrew Osborne, Kristen Hartel, Adrienne Perer and Thomas Henderson.

The person who gets the most votes in the northern district race will serve a four-year term. The second-place finisher will get a three-year term.

Biographies and answers from the candidates on three primary issues facing Holy Cross are available at www.holycross.com/elections.


Left-leaning voter encourages Rep. Lauren Boebert to focus on what matters

Glenwood Springs resident Martha Cochran outside of the Glenwood Springs Historical Society where she volunteers.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Editor’s note: This story is part of an ongoing series highlighting voters throughout Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District. Through the month of May, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, The Aspen Times, Steamboat Pilot & Today. Craig Press and Vail Daily will be running stories highlighting democratic and Republican voters in our communities. Click here to read an introduction on the series.

Political theatrics aren’t exactly what Martha Cochran likes to see when it comes to Rep. Lauren Boebert’s first few months in office, she said.

The 67-year-old Glenwood Springs resident who’s lived in Garfield County — just one of many Western Slope counties that make up the 3rd Congressional District — for the past 46 years considers the political inclinations of Boebert, R-Colo., to be anything but laudable.

“I would say horrified is the most succinct way to put it,” she said. “It’s so unfortunate that we wasted an important seat on what I think is political theater, where there’s no substance at all. It’s such an immature vision of what you think a congressperson should be.”

So far, Boebert’s congressional tenure has included opposing new gun control regulations, Planned Parenthood and the Affordable Care Act. Instead, Cochran wants to see Boebert refocus her attention on other issues.

“There’s a lot of important things,” she said. “Climate, any type of gun reform, some of the social justice issues, immigration reform, healthcare, protection of public lands… all the things that are foremost challenging to our country and what it means to western Coloradans in terms of water and climate for the future here.”

Cochran is a retired executive director of the Aspen Valley Land Trust of many years and a former newspaper publisher. She now works with Space for Giants, an international conservation organization dedicated to habitat production in Africa, and spends her Tuesdays volunteering for the Frontier Historical Museum in Glenwood Springs.

Glenwood Springs resident Martha Cochran does some yard work at the Glenwood Springs Historical Society where she volunteers.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

She said she’s voted both Democratic and Republican the majority of election cycles and is welcoming to crossing party lines.

But come 2022, Cochran said her vote won’t likely go toward the 34-year-old freshman representative.

Despite her distaste for Boebert’s political leanings, Cochran said she’s still hopeful about the bigger picture of politics. “I feel like there is, as opposed to the last four years, where there’s this chaos and lying and kind of tearing down what’s best about America, we’re trying to deal with real issues and having honest policy discussions about what’s the best way to address those, whether its immigration or social change or economic inequality,” she said. “All of those long-term big deals that are gonna affect the future of the states and the world, really.”

“I’m more hopeful than I have been in a long time, she added. “ But they’re hard problems.”

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or rerku@postindependent.com

Garfield County evangelical likes Boebert challenging Congressional leadership

Rifle resident Ed Green plays some pool in the basement of his home that he calls the "bunker" where he video calls into the Rifle City Council meetings.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Editor’s note: This story is part of an ongoing series highlighting voters throughout Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District. Through the month of May, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, The Aspen Times, Steamboat Pilot & Today, Craig Press and Vail Daily will be running stories highlighting Democrat and Republican voters in our communities. Click here to read an introduction to the series.

Staunch conservative, evangelical Christian and current Rifle City Council Member Ed Green is so far impressed by Rep. Lauren Boebert’s ability to challenge what he considers the status quo.

“I think that she’s one of the few conservatives in Congress that has had the guts to challenge the progressive and socialist leadership in Congress,” he said. “Like her, I am an evangelical Christian, I’m a veteran, I’m a supporter of the Second Amendment, I’m a supporter, of course, of religious freedom, freedom of speech, and I think those are the cornerstones of her beliefs and what she’s trying to protect in Congress.”

Now in his second term as a Rifle City Council member, Green has worked many years in the energy sector, at one point working for the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. He’d go on to work at Rocky Flats nuclear energy facility in Denver and later became a materials manager for the interspace and communications division for Hughes Aircraft Co. He’d later manage a cleanup project for a nuclear facility in Ohio before becoming the manager of Garfield County for 13 years.

Prior to coming back to Colorado, he ended his full-time career as a city manager of North Palm Beach, Florida. Green also served in the U.S. Army from 1971 to 1977.

Green said he definitely plans to vote Republican come 2022. Part of the reason is based on a trip he made to a Club 20 meeting in Grand Junction, where Boebert, R-Colo., gave a speech in early April.

Rifle resident and City Councilor Ed Green at his home in Rifle.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

“She has a very relaxed delivery approach,” he said. “She gets in front of the podium and basically talks to the crowd, and I think that’s pretty compelling. And I think she also talks to the fact of our historical traditions and our values that emanate from those historical traditions, and now she wants to protect them.”

When it comes to the current state of national politics, however, Green said the nation is “hopelessly divided and polarized.”

“You don’t see very many moderates in the world anymore. You either have to be a conservative or progressive,” he said. “There is no middle ground in America anymore. There is no room for compromise anymore. I think that, unfortunately, progressives and their socialist friends really encourage that because socialists like to divide the population into groups and take control through the country through that, and you’ve seen that.”

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or rerku@postindependent.com

Aspen Mayor Torre eases to second-term victory

Aspen Mayor Torre, left, waves at passing cars along Main Street with longtime friend Shane Smith while campaigning for Tuesday’s municipal election for another two-year term on March 2, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

First-term Aspen Mayor Torre sailed to re-election victory Tuesday with a sound disposal of his sole opponent, Lee Mulcahy, by a 2,039-177 margin, according to unofficial results from the City Clerk’s Office.

Now with two consecutive mayoral election wins under his belt, Mayor Torre said Tuesday his chief focus the next two years will be on reviving a town spirit mired in a funk since the pandemic hit in March 2020. The mayor’s seat comes with up to three two-year terms.

“My No. 1 goal is community connectivity,” he said. “I really want to see Aspen come together. I think there is somewhat of a divide in our community about what Aspen means, and the Aspen I moved to and the Aspen that drew me back was all about being a supportive and nurturing community. I want to make sure we are united as Aspenites.”

Torre — who also was elected to Aspen City Council in 2003 and 2009 — claimed his first mayoral term in an April 2019 runoff win over Councilwoman Ann Mullins by a final margin of 1,527 votes to 1,184 votes.

Like his mayoral predecessor in the May 2017 election, Steve Skadron, Torre had to withstand a challenge from a single candidate — Mulcahy. And he did, routing the government critic by capturing 92% of the vote.

While Torre’s win was all but a foregone conclusion, the mayor attended the campaign forums and stayed on the campaign trail. On Tuesday he was at his familiar Election Day post — the corner of Mill and Main streets by the Hotel Jerome — asking Aspenites for their vote.

While Torre heard honks and cheers from his supporters passing by the corner on Election Day, he also has been — simply by virtue of the seat he holds — a target of criticism by people upset with the public health orders stemming from the pandemic.

As mayor, Torre has sat on the Piktin County Board of Health, sometimes reluctantly going along with the body’s decisions in a show of unity. Concerns from the ailing business community must be addressed in the coming year, he said. Business casualties from the pandemic have included such longtime colorful establishments as The Red Onion.

“I want to figure out how to maintain character that Aspen has and always had,” he said, “and still retain some of that. We are losing some of those wonderful mom-and-pop, locally serving businesses. We need to see how we can maintain them.”

His other goal for the next term is to continue staying focused on environmental initiatives.

“I want to raise Aspen’s environmental profile,” he said. “There is still some work to do.”

As well, the mayor said the town’s complexion is changing with the urban exodus to resort locales like Aspen, which has created a greater demand on municipal services. There are also the issues that continue to face local government: housing, child care, traffic and transportation.

“Affordable housing and places for locals to live,” he said. “That’s always going to be important.”

Mulcahy, who had the campaign slogan “community boosts immunity,” was seeking the highest elected office within the very city he has mocked and criticized over the years. His main crusade has involved his battle with the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority over his employee-housing unit at the city-developed Burlingame Ranch subdivision. APCHA has long held Mulcahy didn’t work full time in Pitkin County, a requirement to own employee housing, and the courts have agreed.

Even so, Mulcahy continues to inhabit the property with his mother, Mama Sandy, despite APCHA’s purchase of the single-family home in December. Mulcahy continues to maintain APCHA did not give him due process before it took steps to force him to sell the home.

“Let’s be honest, he’s going to get re-elected and I want to be the first to congratulate him,” Mulcahy said at the Squirm Night candidate forum Feb. 18. “But I think we can see a way forward because all we are asking for is peace in this community.”

Mulcahy did not respond to multiple messages seeking comment Tuesday.


Aspen City Council election: Ward Hauenstein and John Doyle win seats, beat out 6 other candidates

Aspen businessman and city council candidate Mark Reece campaigns Tuesday with his daughter in downtown. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Aspen voters picked two longtime locals in Tuesday’s City Council election, voting for incumbent Ward Hauenstein and newcomer John Doyle — who combined have lived in Aspen for 84 years.

“I think there is a good indication in Aspen that people want to stay with the old guard,” said Hauenstein, who received the most votes with 1,036.

Doyle, a newcomer to politics although having lived here for 40 years, was a close second with 993 votes.

In a field of eight and with 4,343 votes cast (voters could pick up to two candidates), the pair beat the threshold of 45% plus one vote, which wound up being 979 votes.

Doyle said Tuesday night he was thinking there would be a runoff.

“I was prepared for that but not looking forward to it,” he said. “I was surprised by the gap between me and Kimbo, and frankly it just reaffirms what I felt from the beginning, which was I felt I had a pretty good level of support with long-term locals.”

Kimbo Brown-Schirato finished third with 693 votes. She was followed by Sam Rose (437 votes); Erin Smiddy (387); Mark Reece (364); Casey Endsley (327); and Jimbo Stockton (106).

Hauenstein, who has served for nearly four years, said he wants to continue the work he and council have been doing. That list includes finding the right balance for the number of units in the yet-to-be-built, city-developed Lumberyard affordable-housing site at the Aspen Business Center near the airport.

“Everything has to be analyzed entirely before decisions are made,” he said Tuesday. “I want density that gives residents there a quality of life and that we can honor them with good housing. We don’t want so much density that people can’t have a quiet enjoyment of life.”

The 69-year-old Hauenstein said he also wants council to reconsider the decision-making authority of the citizen-appointed Historic Preservation Commission, as well as pursue more public-private partnerships for workforce housing.

Doyle, 60, said his top priorities are updating the Aspen Area Community Plan, which is the city’s guiding principles document for the next decade, and focusing on the battle against climate change.

He added that his first priority is “trying to bond with the other council members, and I want to continue in the direction we’re going.”

Doyle is joining Mayor Torre, who easily secured a second two-year term in Tuesday’s election, as well as Councilmembers Rachel Richards and Skippy Mesirow. Those two were elected in 2019 and are in the midway point of their terms.

The other seat is being vacated by Ann Mullins, who is term limited after serving two four-year terms.

City Clerk Nicole Henning said as of Monday there were 6,119 registered voters in Aspen and on Tuesday, 2,343 (38.3%) of them turned in a ballot by 7 p.m. She said the votes would be certified by Friday.

The Aspen municipal election date was changed by a vote in November 2018, moving it from May to March.

Before the move out of the offseason, voter turnout in the May 2017 city election was 38%, with 2,413 out of 6,400 voters showing up to the polls. In March 2019, there were 3,243 votes cast, a 20% increase over the 2017 election. The turnout in 2019 was 53.2% of the 6,095 registered voters.

Local Jon Busch drops his ballot for the municipal election outside of City Hall in Aspen on Tuesday, March 2, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)