Don Rogers: The 3 percent factor in Eagle County elections
Vail, CO, Colorado
What’s the worth of a Vail Daily election endorsement? Arguably, very arguably, about 700 votes in an Eagle County election.
That’s the difference between Republican commissioner candidate Dick Gustafson ” who we endorsed ” coming 500 votes short of incumbent Peter Runyon and Republican commissioner candidate Debbie Buckley ” who we did not endorse ” finishing 1,200 votes behind her Democratic rival Jon Stavney.
Nothing against Buckley. She would have been a fine choice for commissioner. We just thought Stavney was the better candidate. And the same with the Runyon-Gustafson race. We’re confident that Runyon will do a fine job in his second term. We just thought Gustafson was the better choice for these times.
If this theory holds, then our endorsement helped Hasan win more votes for the state House in Eagle County than Democratic incumbent Christine Scanlan. Alas, her Summit County home base steers a harder left course than Eagle County, which voted all Democratic except for Ali Hasan. And Summit famously goes for its own when it comes to state representation.
It just wasn’t a good time to be a Republican. Not after eight weary years of George W. Bush as president, the albatross of a war in Iraq, the economic tides surging down and out. Even if traditional Republican fiscal prudence would be the best way to go in Colorado, from the governor’s mansion to the Statehouse to the Eagle County Board of County Commissioners chambers.
Of course, part of the problem is that nationally, the Republicans have lost their way, outspending even those notorious spendthrifts, the Democrats.
Their candidate at the top of the ticket lost his way, too, running a George W. Bush campaign when the country had grown thoroughly sick of George W. Bush. Only the echoes of the real John McCain that won the nomination remarkably kept as many voters on his side as he had despite the deep disaffection with the current administration.
But the real deal-breaker for McCain with me in the mushy middle was his choice for vice president. All his edge in experience and vaunted judgment vanished with Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, a “Saturday Night Live” punchline who flubbed such trick questions as “What newspapers do you read?” “Can you name a Supreme Court case besides Roe vs. Wade?” and my favorite, “What does a vice president do?”
McCain had a chance with me until then. But there was nothing in that decision about the best interests of the country. It was all Ditto Head, a purely political and cynical gambit. There are many, many capable Republicans, men and women, who would have been credible candidates for vice president. Palin, alas, was not one of those.
Other than Hasan, the Republicans were beyond any help from a Vail Daily endorsement in Eagle County. Such was the Obama steamroller this year.
Obama trumped all this election. There’s not much to argue over that. He didn’t need our endorsement, though we gave it to him. Ultimately he was the better choice, too.
All three Avon candidates we endorsed won. Dick Gustafson came pretty close. Hasan won with Eagle County voters but lost his bid for the state House. Republican state Senate candidate Al White lost in Eagle County but won his election.
So all but two of our endorsements were winners this year, any way you count. That’s coincidence because we don’t recommend by who we think will win. We’d have gone with all Democrats in that case.
The only real difference our endorsements made in the results, under my countywide 700-vote theory, was that Hasan would have lost his election by that many more votes and not won in Eagle County itself.
We caused a stir with the Democrats by daring to endorse Hasan. Some Republicans were furious that we endorsed one GOP candidate for county commissioner but not the other. And internally, Obama was a split decision that included some lively discussion (as was the case with the Hasan endorsement).
So our endorsements this time had no real effect on the outcomes. But there will come along elections closer than those 700 votes, and I doubt many politicians would turn down any opportunity potentially worth 700 votes. That’s 3 percent of the 21,500 who voted in Eagle County.
I’d say a newspaper endorsement still matters.
Don Rogers is the editor and associate publisher of the Vail Daily, Vail Trail and Eagle Valley Enterprise. He can be reached at 748-2920 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He welcomes your comments.