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Torre boosted by Ireland, Richards

Allyn HarveyAspen Times Staff Writer

A sitting county commissioner and a city councilwoman-elect pulled out all the stops in recent weeks to help challenger Torre defeat incumbent Tony Hershey in last night’s council runoff.Commissioner Mick Ireland and Councilwoman-elect Rachel Richards used their long experience with elections in Aspen to help boost Torre’s bid.For much of the run-up to the runoff, Richards has been out in front, writing letters to the editor and talking individually with voters on behalf of Torre.Yesterday, however, Ireland stepped in, taking most of the day off from his regular duties as a commissioner to work voter lists, monitor voting and get people out to vote. In doing so, he missed a joint meeting with the county planning and zoning commission that was scheduled after the P&Z tabled the commissioners’ effort to eliminate affordable housing outside the urban growth boundaries of Aspen, Basalt and Snowmass Village.Commissioner Patti Clapper said she wasn’t surprised that Ireland took election day off to help Torre, but she was disappointed that he wasn’t more upfront about his support. “To come out and support Torre publicly would have been nice if he was going to skip a day of work,” Clapper said. “I was outfront with my support for Tony all along.”Reached at his home at about 6 p.m. yesterday, Ireland confirmed he had spent the day on the Torre election effort. Ireland, who many consider the most astute vote getter in the region, said Torre asked for his help.Earlier this week, Ireland said he had not been actively supporting Torre in the runoff election. “I don’t want this to become about me,” he said at the time.The reference is likely to the fact that he has faced three recall efforts, two of which went all the way to a recall election.Property rights advocates and developers led the efforts to remove Ireland from office, but a number of Pitkin County Republicans, including Hershey, have also supported Ireland’s removal through recall. Hershey publicly supported the last recall effort against Ireland in the spring and summer of 2000.But Ireland insisted last night that helping Torre was not personal. “There comes a time when I just can’t back a party that repeatedly flaunts the campaign financing laws,” Ireland said.Hershey has been defending himself for much of the election for taking donations from multiple family members, including children, to fill up a sizable campaign war chest. Ireland and others accused him of using that tactic to get around campaign finance laws that limit contributions to $250 per person.As a lifelong Democrat, Ireland said he’s also appalled by the recent actions of Republicans in control of Congress and the White House.”I’m concerned about a party that cuts taxes for billionaires and offshore corporations and cuts out benefits for millions of children from low income families,” Ireland explained. “I want to say `No more.'”When asked if he was willing to potentially sacrifice the Burlingame affordable housing project or a potentially viable transit system in and out of Aspen – two projects that Tony has supported and Torre has waffled about – Ireland said he wasn’t worried.”I don’t think it’s the end of Burlingame if Mr. Hershey doesn’t win,” Ireland said.”I don’t understand it – Torre’s for getting the right of way across Marolt back from CDOT, he’s not for Burlingame. It seems like this is about power for Rachel and Mick and not the issues,” Hershey said.[Allyn Harvey’s e-mail address is aharvey@aspentimes.com]