The entry of `recall’ candidates is a welcome sign |

The entry of `recall’ candidates is a welcome sign

It should be a source of some satisfaction for local voters to know that, as of this week, we finally seem to have a true political contest on our hands with regard to Pitkin County Commissioner Mick Ireland’s seat on the county board.

Longtime locals Pepper Gomes and Mary Ellen Smiddy Schembri (she has said she is using her maiden name, Smiddy, because she is better known that way than under her married name) are both aiming to put their names on the ballot to replace Ireland, should he be recalled from office by the voters in August.

With this development, the county’s electorate may have been spared the dismal possibility of having to vote on whether or not to recall Ireland without knowing who might take his place. If Ireland were to be recalled without a replacement candidate on the ballot, the remaining four commissioners would have to appoint his replacement – a prospect likely to make those on either side of the political debate uneasy.

It was not known as of press time Thursday night whether Gomes or Schembri have gathered enough valid signatures to have their names placed on the ballot in August. But regardless of that uncertainty, both are to be commended for their courage, if nothing else. Politics in Pitkin County, as evidenced by much of the rhetoric surrounding the recall itself, has become an arena of high emotions and fierce verbiage. It takes a high level of commitment to local affairs to step into that maelstrom.

It certainly is fitting that at least one of the two who are seeking Ireland’s board seat is a member of the group that initiated the recall campaign in the first place. Schembri is a member of the committee that announced earlier this year that it would start gathering signatures on petitions to hold the recall election.

From the outset of the campaign, critics of the recall have made much of the seeming lack of anyone on the recall committee willing to stand behind their attacks on Ireland with something more substantial than criticism. Schembri’s entry into the election campaign should put an end to such critiques.

Schembri has a long history of community activism in the Aspen area, including work with the Leadership Aspen organization, the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, and volunteer involvement in pedestrian advocacy and other local issues.

Gomes, who has lived here for more than three decades and has been known as a highly regarded local ski instructor, has not been very active politically over the years. His wife, Susan, however, once ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the county board.

One benefit of having two candidates in the race to replace Ireland is that voters at least will have a choice to make in the event they decide against retaining Ireland through the end of his second term.

As the weeks roll along, it can be predicted that Schembri and Gomes will reveal their opinions about a variety of topics, giving voters a lot to chew on when they go into the voting booth in August.

And, considering that Ireland’s own positions on issues and county policies undoubtedly will be an integral part of the campaign debates, this promises to be a lively contest.

It should be made clear that our welcoming Gomes and Schembri to the campaign does not constitute an endorsement for either candidate. There are long weeks of political campaigning yet to come.

For now, it must suffice to extend this expression of welcome, along with hopes for a clean, honest and enlightened campaign that sticks to the issues, eschews personality clashes and gives the voters the information they need to make the best decision possible on election day.

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