Ittner tops Johnson for county commissioner seat
November 3, 2010
ASPEN – Aspen restaurateur Rob Ittner spent the better part of Tuesday holding up a campaign sign at a busy Main Street intersection, as he has frequently during his bid for a Pitkin County commissioner seat. His arms weren’t too tired, though, to shake hands with a steady stream of well-wishers offering their congratulations when the votes were tallied last night.
Ittner outpolled opponent Jack Johnson by a vote of 3,620 to 3,086 to win the District 1 seat. He captured nearly 54 percent of the vote in a race that will be remembered, at least in part, for a website posted by Ittner’s supporters with the goal of undermining Johnson’s election bid.
In District 2, incumbent Commissioner Rachel Richards, running unopposed, collected 4,809 votes.
Johnson conceded the race before the final precinct was tallied, and phoned Ittner to offer his congratulations.
“He basically offered his help in any way that he possibly could. I told him it was a pleasure running against him,” Ittner said, shouting over a boisterous crowd and blaring music – Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” – at his Rustique Bistro.
Ittner, 40, said he wasn’t sure, heading into Tuesday’s voting, who would emerge as the winner, but figured he was a better man for having sought elected office.
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“I would have won whether I won or lost,” he said. “I’m a better person for having done it.”
“I think it was a pretty decisive win on Rob’s part,” Johnson said.
The campaign pitted Ittner, pegged early on as a pro-growth candidate (a view he tried hard to dispel), against Johnson, a former Aspen city councilman who called for preserving the environment and refocusing on a tourism-based economy.
Johnson was upbeat after Tuesday’s loss.
“Here’s why I’m not upset: I ran a really clean campaign and told people exactly what I think … and I worked hard to get the message out,” he said.
How people voted, having heard the message, was out of his hands, Johnson reasoned.
Johnson said he wasn’t sure how much the hittheroadjackj.com website affected the outcome of the election.
“It wasn’t part of my campaign,” said Ittner, who had asked that its creator take it down. “How people reacted to it didn’t change anything I did,” he added.
Johnson, 46, said he plans to remain on the county Planning and Zoning Commission and, as a first order of business, will take down his yard signs Wednesday – not because he wants them for another election bid, but because he has mixed feelings about that aspect of campaigning.