Parties battle for momentum in Eagle County
EAGLE COUNTY – The 2006 election season is about momentum: Democrats want to keep it, and Republicans want it back.Long a Republican stronghold, the county took a decisive turn toward Democratic candidates in the 2004 election. The county voted for John Kerry for president and Ken Salazar for U.S. Senate. Voters re-elected County Commissioner Arn Menconi, a Democrat, and elected another, Peter Runyon.With Republican county commissioner Tom Stone leaving office on term limits at the end of this year, local Democrats have a chance to hold the entire three-member board.At the moment, though, only Republican Hugo Benson and unaffiliated candidate Roger Brown, both of Gypsum, have said they’re running for Stone’s job. With the exception of Coroner Kara Bettis, though, the rest of the elected officials in the county are Republicans, and all but Corcoran have said they’re going to ask voters for another term.Incumbents are usually re-elected, but that doesn’t mean local Republicans will have an easy time of it.”There are so many new people from California and the East Coast who are bringing their political ideas with them,” said Randy Milhoan, a local Republican Party committee member. With that migration has come another shift out of Eagle County, Milhoan said. People who traditionally voted Republican, including ranchers, miners and railroad employees, have mostly left, he said. While local Democrats don’t have any candidates who’ve declared (except Bettis) at the moment, Branscomb said he’s been talking to locals who are interested in some of the county jobs. There’s still time to get a campaign rolling, but not as much as it might seem. Both parties hold annual dinners in February. That’s traditionally when candidates make announcements.In March come county caucuses, which are meetings at which candidates talk to the party faithful. Those meetings also elect representatives to the county assemblies in April. Candidates who get enough support at those meetings get on the August primary ballot.All of which means it’s not as long a time to the November election as it seems, so momentum is already starting to build.At the moment, local Democrats are sending out newsletters via e-mail, Branscomb said. Milhoan said Republicans are starting to gear up, too.”But it sure seems like the last election just ended,” Milhoan said.