Eagle County GOP: We’re ready for November | VailDaily.com
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Eagle County GOP: We’re ready for November

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY ” At a question-and-answer forum in Avon last week, Republican candidates Dick Gustafson, Debbie Buckley and Muhammad Ali Hasan answered questions about affordable housing, property taxes and bark beetle solutions.

The forum was a warm-up event of sorts for the candidates, who said their campaigns will pick up speed in the next few months as they try to reclaim positions from the current all-Democrat Board of County Commissioners.

“Right now, I’m just going out and asking people what they want to see happen,” said Gustafson, a former commissioner who is running against incumbent commissioner Peter Runyon.

Avon resident Debbie Buckley will run against Democrat John Stavney for term-limited Arn Menconi’s spot.

Buckley said she will not start campaigning until July, but has been attending town council and community meetings and learning more about local issues.

She said that while affordable housing and property taxes top the list of hot topics, she’s also interested in “getting the Republican party back to its roots.”

“I want us to take more of a lead on things like recycling. Eagle and Gypsum don’t even recycle yet,” she said. “The Republicans were the first environmentalists.”

State Representative candidate Hasan, who is running for House District 56, said he is optimistic about his chances. He is back to campaigning after facing a restraining order request brought against him by his former girlfriend. The request was later dropped.

“I was scared as heck. It was emotionally taxing, and I basically missed two months of campaigning,” he said.

He almost withdrew his candidacy, and had to re-evaluate whether or not he wanted to run.

“For one thing, my ego is completely gone. I had to sit down and think, ‘Do I really want to make a difference?'” he said.

Hasan has hired Kaye Ferry, former executive director of the Vail Chamber and Business Association, as his campaign manager. His plan is to knock on 10,000 doors and run a green campaign using minimal yard signs and paper, he said. He faces incumbent Democrat Christine Scanlan of Summit County in the fall.

One of Hasan’s biggest obstacles during his campaign has been the fact that he is a Republican, he said.

“People just associate you with a negative Republican agenda,” he said. “But I think we’ve corrected a lot of the wrong stuff. We’re putting the party back in the right direction.”

Former Republican commissioner Tom Stone also said he thinks the local candidates can overcome the negative Republican image.

“First, we have great candidates. Also, the issues they face are county issues, not partisan issues,” he said. “Eagle County generally does a very good job of looking past party affiliation.”

The tide of recent local elections has been positive for Republicans, some party members said.

“We’re still a fairly conservative county,” Stone said, pointing out votes against a tax to fund early childhood development programs, and two votes against home rule.

The vote against home rule was for a “smaller, more effective” government, he said.

Also, the outcome of Avon’s recent election requires the town to put any land sale deals to a public vote.

“That was a conservative vote to retain power of the people,” Stone said.

Donna Spinelli, president of the Eagle County Republican Women, said she thinks those results indicate that people are ready for a conservative agenda.

“People don’t think their needs and comments are being heard,” she said. “They feel like they’re running up against a wall when it comes to our current commissioners.”

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.


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