County parties getting ready for election year |

County parties getting ready for election year

Scott N. Miller
NWS Home Rule BH 11-1

EAGLE COUNTY – The 2006 election season is about momentum. Democrats want to keep it, and Republicans want it back.Long seen as a Republican stronghold, county voters took a decisive turn toward Democrat candidates in 2004. The county voted for John Kerry for president and Ken Salazar for U.S. Senate. Voters re-elected Democrat county commissioner Arn Menconi and elected another, Peter Runyon.

With Republican county commissioner Tom Stone leaving office due to 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 usually get 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. “Republicans need good candidates at the federal and state level, to get people interested,” Milhoan said. The same is true for local Democrats. “I’m excited – we’ve got some incredible candidates at the state level,” said Harvie Branscomb, the chairman of the county’s Democrat Party. “Having them visit the county helps get people out.”

While local Democrats don’t have any declared candidates (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.Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14624, or

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