Incumbents Martin, Samson retain seats after close races for Garfield County commissioner | AspenTimes.com
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Incumbents Martin, Samson retain seats after close races for Garfield County commissioner

John Stroud and Ray K. Erku
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Garfield County Commissioner John Martin, seated between fellow commissioners Tom Jankovsky, left, and Mike Samson, speaks at the start of the Rocky Mountain Resources permit review public meeting held at Glenwood Springs Middle School in April 2019.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

The two Garfield County Commissioner races that were a too close to call late Tuesday night became clearer Wednesday with the Republican incumbents retaining their seats.

John Martin appears to have won re-election to a seventh term and Mike Samson to his fourth term.

Martin won after a hard-fought and heavily funded challenge for the District 2 seat by Democrat Beatriz Soto.

A fourth and final day-after-election update from the Garfield County Clerk’s Office on Wednesday gave Martin 14,424 votes, or 48.7%, to Soto’s 13,907 votes, or 47%.

Brian Bark, who ran as an unaffiliated candidate for the seat, claimed 1,279 votes, or 4.3%, according to the Wednesday afternoon tally.

Garfield Clerk Jean Alberico said 535 ballots could still be counted for the election, including ones held out of the count for various reasons such as signature and other discrepancies. Those ballots can still be cured by voters up until Nov. 12, and are to be tabulated on Nov. 13, she said.

“Five-hundred and seventeen is better than 372,” Martin said Wednesday afternoon of the difference in the number of votes between he and Soto late election night compared to the new total.

“I just want to thank the voters for a new four-year term, and to say that I will do my very best,” Martin said. “And a big thanks to Jean and her group. They’ve been under tremendous pressure, and are working through a lot of challenges.”

Martin touted his “one-man committee and word-of-mouth” campaign, as well as modest funding — $9,581 compared to Soto’s $73,417, as of the Oct. 30 financial reports filed with the state.

Martin said he’s willing to sit down with Soto and any of her base of voters to discuss the issues.

“I never hold anything against anyone, and do want to learn from folks and use some of that for the benefit of our people here in Garfield County,” he said. “Now that the politics are over, it’s time to take care of people.”

Martin took the lead in the race late Tuesday after Soto had led most of the night based on early returns.

Soto could not be reached for comment Wednesday on the latest results, but offered some comments via text late Tuesday as the race narrowed.

“We had an amazing turnout and support,” Soto said. “Regardless of the election result, we will continue to fight for local racial and social justice, and to add voices to protect our environment and public lands.”

In the other race, Samson beat Democrat Leslie Robinson for the District 3 seat.

Samson’s 14,478 votes over Robinson’s 13,656 hoisted the Republican candidate to an unsurpassable 2.92% lead.

“I feel really good about the issues that I brought up,” Robinson told the Post Independent just before noon Wednesday. “I very much enjoyed working with Beatriz (Soto) as my campaign partner and we’re both community activists, so we’re not going to be going anywhere.”

Looking back at her campaign trail, Robinson said she was shocked to see how much racism there still is in western Garfield County.

“We got feedback from business owners that their children in the high school are ridiculed and bullied,” she said. There’s a problem with the school system with a racial imbalance… It has something to do with students amplifying their parents’ beliefs.”

Despite the impending loss, Robinson said she’ll continue to fight for Garfield County residents.

After several attempts, the Rifle Citizen Telegram was unable to reach Samson for comment.

County commissioners are elected county-wide, but must reside within a representative district in the sprawling county that stretches from Carbondale on the east to the Utah state line on the west.


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