Basalt, El Jebel Democrats carried the day for Ryan |

Basalt, El Jebel Democrats carried the day for Ryan

Jill Ryan

BASALT – When Jill Ryan is sworn in as an Eagle County commissioner Tuesday, she will have voters in the El Jebel and Basalt areas to thank for putting her in her place.

Ryan, a Democrat, dominated the four precincts in the Roaring Fork Valley in the Nov. 6 general election. She needed the big showing to overcome the outcome in the Eagle Valley.

“I don’t take it for granted that I got so many votes from El Jebel and Basalt,” Ryan said Monday.

She recalled that she was sweating out the election results as they were counted in Eagle on Election Night, before the ballots from the Roaring Fork Valley arrived. Democratic Party workers in the Roaring Fork Valley portion of the county assured her she would like what she saw from Basalt and El Jebel.

When the final tally was counted, it showed Ryan lost to one of her two opponents in 20 of the 30 precincts, and they tied in another. Ryan won nine precincts, including the four in El Jebel and Basalt.

She topped her closest opponent by 1,068 votes in the Roaring Fork Valley’s precincts. Overall, her margin of victory was just 593 votes.

Ryan’s highest percentage of victory came in the Basalt precinct, where she got 68 percent of the vote, according to the Eagle County clerk and recorder’s official results from the election. She garnered between 59 and 64 percent of the vote in each of the three El Jebel precincts.

The Basalt and El Jebel areas account for only 16 percent of Eagle County’s population, but the high concentration of Democrats magnifies their importance for candidates of that party, said Jon Stavney, an incumbent and Democrat who won re-election Nov. 6 as an Eagle County commissioner. He said Roaring Fork Valley Democrats have influenced at least some of the county commissioners races in the past three elections – helping former Commissioner Peter Runyon and, now, Ryan.

“We would not have three Democratic commissioners if not for the Roaring Fork Valley,” Stavney said.

Stavney didn’t have as close of a call as Ryan in November. He won by 2,928 votes overall. He picked up 1,092 more votes than his competitor in the Roaring Fork Valley’s four precincts.

Nevertheless, he was grateful for the support from Basalt and El Jebel. He earned 70 percent of the ballots cast in the Basalt precinct and one of the three El Jebel precincts. He got 65 and 66 percent of the votes in the other two El Jebel precincts.

“It means a lot to me. I put a lot of time in over there,” Stavney said.

He said he wonders if heavy campaigning in the Roaring Fork Valley is necessary for a Democrat in Eagle County. It might vote Democrat anyway, he said, or the strong turnout might reflect that voters were satisfied with the job he did. He tends to believe it was best for him to rally the Democratic base.

“Those of us who want to be in office, it behooves us to pay attention to the Roaring Fork,” Stavney said.

Runyon, who couldn’t seek a third four-year term because of term limits, said he isn’t sure if it was the solid base of Democrats that swept him into office twice or other factors, such as President Barack Obama’s coattails four years ago. Regardless of its role, he said he appreciates the support he got from the Roaring Fork Valley constituents. Runyon, a strong growth-control advocate, said he always felt closely aligned with Roaring Fork Valley residents.

Ryan feels that affinity, as well.

“I think the people in the Roaring Fork Valley and I share a lot of values,” Ryan said. She pointed to environmental issues in general and river health specifically as shared values.

Ryan said she has already relied on Democratic Party leaders in the Basalt and El Jebel areas to introduce her to business owners and others in the Roaring Fork Valley. She also intends to hold regular office hours in El Jebel to make herself available to constituents, she said.

Stavney and Ryan will be on the board with Sara Fisher, a Democrat who wasn’t up for election this year.

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