Local voters pick winners in 80 percent of major races

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – Pitkin County voters on Tuesday were in tune with the majority in four of five major races that stretched outside the county borders.

Local voters picked winners in the presidential election, the Amendment 64 statewide referendum to regulate marijuana like alcohol and the House District 61 race (won handily by Democrat state Rep. Millie Hamner). In the three-county 9th Judicial District attorney’s race, challenger Sherry Caloia has a narrow lead over Republican incumbent Martin Beeson. The outcome of that race could be affected when provisional ballots are counted within the next several days.

However, in the 3rd Congressional District race, Pitkin voters overwhelmingly backed the loser, state Rep. Sal Pace, D-Pueblo. Incumbent Republican Scott Tipton, of Cortez, was re-elected by a wide margin in the massive boot-shaped district that stretches from Rangely in the northwestern corner of the state all the way to Pueblo in the south-central area. It also includes Grand Junction, Durango and most Western Slope mountain communities, including Aspen.

Blanca O’Leary, chair of the Pitkin County Democratic Party, said she thought both the Democrats and Republicans were extremely successful in getting their core local voters to participate in the elections. Both local party organizations had campaign headquarters in Aspen. Local turnout in the race among active voters was 93 percent, according to preliminary information provided by county election officials.

O’Leary had high praise for the efforts of her GOP counterpart, Frieda Wallison, chairwoman of the Pitkin County Republicans. Though a majority of the county’s voters backed President Obama’s re-election bid, he didn’t fare as well locally as he did in 2008, garnering 6,648 votes compared with 7,349 four years ago, a 701-vote decrease. Meanwhile, Republican nominee Mitt Romney pulled 2,941 votes in Pitkin County, 457 votes better than John McCain’s showing in 2008.

“She’s been very engaged, very outgoing and good at building up her party, also,” O’Leary said.

Wallison said that the stronger showing for the presidential nominee was a highlight for the county’s Republicans this year, along with Tipton’s victory on Tuesday, a record caucus turnout in February and two fundraising visits from Romney in Aspen.

“A swing of 1,158 votes is a pretty substantial swing, in my view,” Wallison said of how Romney fared in the county compared with McCain.

She also noted a strong second-place showing by Republican Debra Irvine in the House 61 contest. Irvine did little campaigning in Pitkin County, but with the “R” behind her name, she drew 23 percent of the vote in Pitkin County and 34 percent of the vote districtwide in losing to Hamner.

Unfortunately, the GOP’s local headquarters near the S-curves was defaced on three separate occasions by someone hurling eggs at the buildings, Wallison pointed out. Despite the adversity, local Republican volunteers stayed the course and worked as a team to get out the vote, she said.

O’Leary spoke of the Democratic Party’s local successes but also mentioned a solid effort by Jessica Garrow, the candidate for one of the seats on the University of Colorado’s board of regents. The district for which Garrow vied encompasses the same territory as the 3rd Congressional District, and Garrow campaigned throughout, O’Leary said.

Garrow, a long-range planner for the city of Aspen’s Community Development Department, won Pitkin County with nearly 70 percent of the vote but lost in the end to Republican Glenn Gallegos. The Democrat took 46 percent of the vote overall.

“Jessica was a real trooper,” O’Leary said. “She visited every county, did every parade and really got to know people throughout the entire district. It just didn’t work out.”

As for Pace, O’Leary said he was drastically outspent by Tipton and super political action committees, which spent more than $1.6 million on advertising aimed at returning Tipton to Congress.

While O’Leary expressed hope that Democrats and Republicans could bury the hatchet over recent differences and work as a team over the next four years to benefit the nation as a whole, Wallison wasn’t so sure it was possible.

“I’m concerned about the direction of our country, and I suspect others are, as well,” she said. “This is a very divided country, and the last four years have been particularly difficult. And I think Obama is largely to blame.”


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