Eagle County GOP scrutinizes close commish contest
Eagle County Republicans indicated yesterday they may investigate some votes cast in a commissioner race their candidate lost by only 37 votes Tuesday, according to county clerk Sara Fisher.
The Republicans are concerned about voting in the District 2 race, Fisher said. Democrat Arn Menconi received 6,270 votes, or 44.4 percent, to edge out Republican Steve Morris, who had 6,233 votes, or 44.1 percent.
An unaffiliated candidate, Kathy Warren, attracted 1,614 votes.
Fisher said she was notified verbally Wednesday by Eagle County Republican chairwoman E. Jo Brown that the party wants to look at “signature cards” filled out by some voters at the polls Tuesday.
“They indicated they might challenge the election,” said Fisher of the Republicans. “If they want to investigate, so be it. I don’t believe we have anything to hide.”
The signature cards are typically filled out when election judges discover a voter has changed their address since registering to vote.
For example, a voter comes to the polling place and supplies their name. If the judges cannot find that person’s name as a resident of the precinct, they will call the clerk’s office and make sure they are registered. If so, the person must fill out a card with the new address and swear they have not previously voted in that same election and will not vote another time.
If they aren’t registered, they aren’t allowed to vote. “There were many people who were turned away,” said Fisher.
Republican chairwoman Brown didn’t return a telephone call Wednesday afternoon from The Aspen Times. Fisher, who is a Republican, said she told Brown that the intent to investigate signature cards should be made in writing.
It was uncertain if the Republican party would pursue that route. It was also uncertain if Morris, the losing candidate, was involved in the strategy sessions of his party. He didn’t return a telephone call Wednesday.
Menconi said he felt the signature-card issue will turn out to be a “non-issue.” He is unconvinced it is a widespread concern of the Eagle County Republican leadership. It’s also a prime example of why people are turned off by “party politics,” he said.
“We can’t have one or two people affect what we’re going to do,” Menconi said.
The winning candidate said the election wasn’t about winning or losing for him personally. It was about “social services and people,” he said. Menconi saw his victory as “a vote for education and nonprofits.”
Menconi was elected to a commissioner seat that has been overwhelmingly Republican. His research indicated he was the first Democrat elected in District 2 for at least 30 years. The seat is being vacated by Johnnette Phillips, a Republican who was forced out by term limits.
Democrat Mike Gallagher was kept in office by a wide margin in the commission’s District 1 race Tuesday.
“We can work together really well,” said Menconi. “We have a lot of similar beliefs.”
Even though the Menconi-Morris race was close, it wasn’t close enough to trigger an automatic recount, said Fisher. She said 13 ballots must still be counted because they couldn’t be fed to counting machines Tuesday night. Even if all those votes go to Morris, it still wouldn’t be close enough to trigger an automatic recount, she said.
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