County voters keep incumbents Farris and
Voters in Pitkin County came out overwhelmingly in favor of the incumbents last night, re-electing two sitting county commissioners by comfortable margins.
The only nail-biter was the race for District 4, which kept candidates Jack Hatfield and John Young on the edge of their seats throughout the night. It wasn’t until well over half the votes were counted that Hatfield began to inch toward victory and the right to fill the seat being vacated by Leslie Lamont.
“At one point, I thought the Hatfield-Young race would require a recount,” said Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder Silvia Davis. But Hatfield ended up winning by 342 votes, 52.5 percent of the total.
Commissioners Dorothea Farris and Shellie Roy Harper had a much easier time dispatching of their opponents, Martin Fiala and Michael O’Sullivan, respectively.
Farris drew the support of 3,919 voters, winning with 61.3 percent of the total vote in the District 5 race. Harper won by capturing 61 percent – 3,767 votes in all – in the District 3 race.
The 3-to-2 margin in favor of both incumbents mirrored the outcome of last summer’s recall election against Commissioner Mick Ireland, who also won with the support of about 60 percent of the electorate.
“I think this election sends a message to stay the course on issues like housing, growth management and transportation,” Ireland said of last night’s results. “Shellie and Dorothea did an amazing amount of work on all those issues, and I think voters have ratified the course of action they took.”
When asked about the victory, Harper declined to comment directly on her race against O’Sullivan, commenting instead on the outcome n See Commissioners on page 17-A
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of several races on yesterday’s ballot.
“I’m so proud of Pitkin County’s voters for their support of the RTA and the transportation bonds,” she said. “In the city of Aspen, voters said yes to all of the projects we need to get done. That’s courageous, because voters are usually skeptical about spending money on big projects.”
Farris was a little more direct about her feelings. “It feels good to win – a lot better than losing,” she said.
Asked if she planned to address any of the issues raised during the campaign by her opponent, Farris said, “I heard nothing that struck me as something we need to address, because he didn’t bring anything up worth addressing.”
Both Fiala and O’Sullivan focused their campaign on several recent decisions made by the county commissioners, particularly the proposal to form a regional transportation district and recent changes to the land use code made after a six-month moratorium on development of large homes. Their remarks echoed many of the same criticisms, especially on transportation, leveled by the Common Sense Alliance and its spokesman, Jeffrey Evans. Both Fiala and O’Sullivan were strongly backed by the Redstone-based political issues committee.
The Hatfield-Young race was, for many political observers, surprisingly close through most of the night. For much of the early counting, the candidates passed the lead back and forth. But Hatfield began to establish a lead with voting precinct 4, which includes much of the affordable housing on Aspen’s outskirts. Once the Snowmass Village precincts were tallied, it became clear that Hatfield, a two-term Snowmass Village town councilman, was going to win.
“It was very hard to compete against a hockey dad and housing advocate like John. He put up a great race,” Hatfield said. “But I think people perceived our differences, especially the conflicts we had over housing and open space, and went with someone who has a track record instead of an unknown.”
Davis said last night’s turnout – 7,876 people cast ballots – was a record for Pitkin County. “I think it was the Gore-Bush race,” she reckoned. “We had a lot of ballots with just one hole punched in them: President.”
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