Eagle County campaigns set to rev up | VailDaily.com

Eagle County campaigns set to rev up

Lauren Glendenning
lglendenning@vaildaily.com
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – It’s not a presidential election year, but local politicos are as enthusiastic as ever about the November election because they say there’s a lot on the line this year.

Call it anger, distaste, frustration or something else, but whatever it is, there’s a political energy in the air that is expected to bring voters to the polls this November.

The Republicans want to put a stop to government spending, Democrats want their incumbents re-elected, and the Tea Party and 9.12 Project folks want massive changes across the board.

After Labor Day is typically when the parties will start kicking campaigns and fundraisers into overdrive, with volunteers making phone calls, knocking on doors and posting political signs throughout the county, said Randy Milhoan, chairman of the Eagle County Republican Executive Committee.

The November ballot is full of races and ballot measures, both local and statewide, that local party leaders expect will compel voters to show up at the polls.

Of the county’s 21,560 active registered voters as of Friday, there are about 2,000 more unaffiliated voters than there are Democrats and Republicans.

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“The unaffiliated voters become really critical in these elections,” Milhoan said. “We have to attract a lot of them.”

Enthusiasm breeds enthusiasm

Democrats are lagging behind in terms of enthusiasm – local Democratic National Committeewoman Debbie Marquez said there’s an enthusiasm gap among the Democrats.

“We need to make sure people understand what an important election this is,” Marquez said. “There’s a lot to be enthused about.”

Conservatives don’t seem to need the reminders about why the election is important. The Vail Valley 9.12 Project, part of a nationwide movement of constitutional conservatives, has been growing in members since it began last year, with membership now just under 100 people.

“We are motivated,” said Michael Schneider, the project’s organizer.

Schneider said people have just “awakened,” referring to the recent surge of political protest and mobilization evidenced through groups like 9.12 and the Tea Party movement.

“The arrogance of this Congress goes back 100 years. These people work for us, but who are they? They’ve become these aristocrats that think they know better than we do,” Schneider said. “We’re going to get them out, and we’re going to replace them with people who are constitutionalists, and if they don’t follow through, they’ll get replaced, too.”

The Tea Party candidates have really mobilized the Republicans to get out and vote, said Carole Onderdonk, co-chair of the Eagle County Democrats, who thinks the real test for who’s truly mobilized will come after Labor Day.

There were more voters in the primary election earlier this month in Eagle County than ever, with Republicans casting the most votes. The primary, however, isn’t necessarily a sign of what’s to come.

“Primary voters are usually the die-hards, the committed party people,” Onderdonk said. “When it comes to the actual election, we’ll get a lot more variety of people coming out.”

Milhoan thinks the Republicans could really do well this November because of a growing anti-incumbent sentiment, he said.

“A lot of these incumbents are in trouble I think,” Milhoan said. “News on the economy is not getting better, it’s getting worse.”

Kaye Ferry, first vice-chair of the Eagle County Republican Executive Committee, is running for the Colorado Board of Education and said she has been to every county in the state except for one in recent weeks. No matter where she has been, she said people are upset about the economy.

“People are at their wits’ end about what’s going on – I’m not sure everyone even believes the Republicans can fix the situation,” Ferry said.

Ferry said she’s been talking to the heads of various local Republican parties and said Boulder and Broomfield are seeing a big swing for Republicans.

“I think it will be a very interesting election,” Ferry said.

The ballot

Eagle County voters will vote for sheriff, treasurer, District 3 county commissioner, as well as state House District 56, state Senate District 8 and Congressional District 2. Colorado voters will also choose a new governor this November, as Governor Bill Ritter is not running for re-election.

Milhoan said Republican Claudia Alexander, who is running against Democratic incumbent Sara Fisher for Eagle County commissioner, has been working hard and seems to be gaining traction.

Debra Irvine is running as the Republican candidate against Rep. Christine Scanlan, another race that Milhoan thinks could go back to the Republicans.

Congressman Jared Polis, however, probably has the upper hand in winning re-election over challenger Stephen Bailey simply because Polis has so much money, Milhoan said.

Onderdonk said in the two big races, for Senate and governor, most Democrats feel the Republican candidates are far too right-wing.

She’s also not convinced Irvine has such a great chance because she hasn’t been campaigning very much, at least not in Eagle County, Onderdonk said.

“I think Christine has a very good chance at winning,” Onderdonk said.

The Vail Valley 9.12 Project is mostly focused on the race for governor. The group is backing Republican candidate Dan Maes, Schneider said, and plans to host meetings and get more people involved in the coming weeks and months.

Some other hot topics this November include three ballot initiatives dealing with vehicle registration fees, property taxes and limits on government debt and taxes.

Eagle County voters will also get to decide whether medical marijuana dispensaries should be allowed in the county and whether Eagle County commissioners can serve more than two terms.

“Commissioners want to be untermed – that’s an issue,” Marquez said. “There’s more (going on) than just the top of the ticket.”

Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or lglendenning@vaildaily.com.