Local Democrats disappointed in Gallagher
“I was approached early on by Michael Gallagher to try to discourage me from running,” said Sandberg. “I think it’s inappropriate for any commissioner to endorse another one. It’s important to let the people decide.”
Gallagher announced he will back Republican Commissioner Tom Stone, the incumbent in this November’s election. Stone faces challenges from Sandberg and unaffiliated candidate Laurie Bower.
“I’m the balance guy; I’m the center guy,” said Sandberg. “I go with issues, I go with facts, and I go with what’s best for the taxpayers of Eagle County.”
Eagle County Democratic co-chair Debbie Marquez said the Democratic Party does not agree with Gallagher’s support of Stone.
“We disagree that Stone has the most to offer,” said Marquez. “He has the most to offer to the people who can advance his career. Gerry doesn’t have any conflicts going into this. Tom has had conflicts raised since he has been in office. We have the candidate who has the most to offer.”
Bower said she took Gallagher’s endorsement in stride.
“I wasn’t surprised, and neither am I intimidated by this,” said Bower. “I think commissioner Gallagher is actually supporting one of the central themes of my campaign – the importance of the individual.”
Bower has had her share of experience with political renegades. She said she was chairman of the county’s Democratic Party when Sen. Ben Nighthorse-Campbell switched parties to become a Republican about two months after state Democrats helped him win his election.
“You can’t use your party to get elected, then change horses,” said Bower.
In endorsing Stone, Gallagher said he was hired by the people of Eagle County to take care of the county – not the party. He signaled his independence during last spring’s Democratic county assembly, telling the crowd the worst possible reason to support someone is because of their political affiliation. Gallagher and Stone have comprised two-thirds of Eagle County’s Board of County Commissioners for almost three years. They have been joined at different times by Republican Johnnette Phillips and current commissioner Arn Menconi, a Democrat. Gallagher was originally appointed to the Board of County Commissioners by Eagle County Democrats to replace Democrat James Johnson, who resigned.
Eagle County Democratic Co-Chair Stephen Richards said that while Gallagher’s endorsement is incorrect, his independent-thinking ways reflect Democratic values.
“We put Michael in office, and we stand by our convictions the same way he hope he stands by his,” said Richards. “That’s what Democrats are. We’re free thinkers.
“We’re the big-tent party, and this is an example,” said Richards. “At the same time, we want to make it clear we don’t agree with this.”
Richards and Marquez said Gallagher didn’t discuss his endorsement plans with local party officials. They said, though, that’s not a consideration.
“Having officials with opposing views is what makes us Democrats,” said Marquez.
“Democrats will stop and let our people speak their minds,” said Richards. “We feel like everyone should have a voice. That’s why we put Michael in there. He’s done a good job, and we knew he’d do a good job.
“He’s pretty independent, and that’s the kind of candidate we like.”
Richards said Stone and Gallagher have created a good working relationship, but it’s really no different than anyone else.
“All of us are in the same situation,” said Richards. “If we work with someone, we want to have a good working relationship. “And Democrats are coalition builders.”
Richards pointed to state Rep. Carl Miller, D-Leadville and U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, D-Boulder, as opposites who attract for the public good.
“They’re at opposite ends of the political spectrum, but still they work together to get the people’s work done,” said Richards. “Michael and Arn (Menconi) are also at opposite ends of the political spectrum, and they can work together.”