Local Dems rally behind Menconi, Runyon
More than 100 enthusiastic Eagle County Democrats pushed their election year strategies into high gear at the party’s assembly Friday night.
Eagle County Democrats nominated candidates for county offices, heard speeches from state candidates, and placed planks in their party platforms during a spirited two-and-a-half hour meeting at the Eagle County Building.
Local Democrats rallied behind incumbent Eagle County Commissioner Arn Menconi and candidate Peter Runyon, who’s making his rookie political run. Runyon is seeking the county commissioner seat currently held by fellow Democrat Michael Gallagher, who has yet to announce whether he’ll run for re-election.
The following in a glance at the Democratic slate for the Nov. 4 election:
Incumbent, Eagle county commissioner, midvalley seat
“Are there any Democrats in this house?” Menconi asked as the crowd revved up. “I serve in this house and every Tuesday I wonder if there are Democrats in Eagle County.”
In his speech to party faithful, Menconi immediately promised a positive campaign aimed at bringing people together, and not to promote one man’s agenda.
“We are all Eagle County residents who value integrity above all else,” said Menconi.
He said sustainable growth is the key to the county’s future, and over last four years, he helped create the “Planning the Future Class,” in which residents try to shape the county’s future.
“We must work together as one valley, one county,” said Menconi. “We can no longer afford the mindset of fiefdoms that we’ve seen over the last 10 years.”
Menconi has been actively working with Don Cohen to help create an economic development council. He proposed “smart, visionary land planning,” and suggested having an analysis done on how much room to build there is left in the county.
“We’ll have the smartest of growth when we work together with all towns, as land use decisions come before this board,” he said.
Menconi helped campaign for Eagle County’s open space tax fund, which passed by seven votes. He also pushed through the seed money – $35,000 – to launch a program to recycle construction materials, and is the first elected official in Eagle County to have the motor pool purchase a hybrid vehicle.
But there’s still work to be done on early childcare programs, Menconi said.
“We have one of the highest percentages of working mothers in the country – 75 percent,” said Menconi. “It’s the right thing to do for the people and economy of Eagle County.”
Menconi fought hard against Referendum A, which would have allowed the state to borrow money to build reservoirs. Voters defeated it last November. He also said the community has evolved greatly, and part of that evolution is trying to make sense of scandals that beset the nation.
“I propose that Eagle County adopt a code of ethics,” he said. “We want to create an environment of trust.”
He’s proud of his record, Menconi said, and likes his chances in the November election.
“I was asked earlier today, ‘Do you think you can win?’ I wouldn’t be standing before you tonight if I didn’t think that I already did,” he said.
Candidate, Eagle county commissioner, upvalley seat
“I came to this race because I love Eagle County,” Runyon said. “I’ve lived here 34 years and seen lot of changes. As a photographer and businessman, I’ve taken pictures of this county and put it in its best possible light, to make it known that this is one of the world’s special places.”
Runyon said what makes Eagle County special could be bulldozed if residents aren’t paying attention.
According to the state demographer, in 20 years Eagle County’s population could double, with a huge number of retiring Baby Boomers, Runyon said. The most telling statistic is that 36,000 workers will have to commute into this county every day, he added.
“During this campaign you might hear that I’m against growth. That’s not true,” said Runyon. “We need smart growth, planned growth. We need to be proactive and create a bi-partisan commission to create guidelines to direct future growth.”
Toward that end, Runyon proposed making Eagle County a home rule county, with five commissioners instead of three. He said that level of planning cannot occur in a vacuum, and proposed more inter-governmental accords between the valley’s government agencies.
The growth that he hopes to push is economic. He’s a strong supporter of an Eagle County economic development council, which he said would be charged with bringing high paying jobs to the area, Runyon said.
“With your help we can make Eagle County the best – not necessarily the biggest,” said Runyon.
Candidate, district attorney for Eagle County
Brown related experiences from his youth in which someone broke out a window and tried to flood Tom Bradley’s campaign headquarters when he was trying to become the first minority mayor of a major metropolitan city. He said he saw crosses burned in a front yard.
Brown, who has 18 years of experience in criminal courts, said the district attorney’s job – now being done by Republican appointee Mark Hurlbert – is to take horrible instances like that and hold people accountable.
“There are values that have shaped me, there are experiences have shaped me,” said Brown. “They are values that are reflected by the Democratic party.”
Candidate, Colorado state Senate
Fetcher is a cattle rancher from Clark, north of Steamboat Springs. He helped found the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association Land Trust, which strives to preserve the state’s land and water resources. He served on his local school board for almost a decade, and successfully fought for Routt County’s program to aid school finances, above the state funding provided to each county.
Republicans hold a slim margin in the Colorado Senate – 17 Democrats to 18 Republicans. Fetcher is challenging the incumbent Republican Jack Taylor.
“This race is critical,” said Fetcher. “It’s considered a tier one race, and I’m proud to be part of it. We have a strong chance to win this thing.”
Candidate for Colorado House of Representatives
“When you go home, make sure all your family members are registered to vote,” said Lindstrom. “Then make sure they’re registered as Democrats.”
Lindstrom, who is running against Eagle County resident Heather Lemon for the seat being vacated by Carl Miller, has been a Summit County commissioner for 10 years, and has lived in Breckenridge 30 years.
“We have a unique opportunity if we are united and stay united,” he said.
Candidate, U.S. Senate
Former Eagle County District Attorney Michael Goodbee spoke on Salazar’s behalf.
“I haven’t seen this many Eagle County Democrats in one place in a long time,” said Goodbee. “It’s amazing what one lousy president will do.”
Goodbee said he left elected office only because Salazar – whose family has been in Colorado for five generations – asked him to come to the Colorado Attorney General’s office and direct the criminal division. Salazar is vying for the seat being vacated by Sen. Ben Nighthorse-Campbell and faces a pair of Republican challengers.
“I can tell you that what can be described as a Republican hold on this state has been shaken,” Goodbee said.
That hold has been shaken by two events:
First, said Goodbee, the defeat of Referendum A. “That’s due to one man amassing many people. Ken Salazar went from county to county telling everyone the same thing, Don’t buy this.'” said Goodbee.
Second – with 72 hours left in last year’s legislature – Republicans pushed a re-districting plan through state legislature. It was signed by the governor. “Two men stood up,” said Goodbee. “One was your congressman and the other was Ken Salazar.”
“This man will win this seat, and that will be the third major event that will break the Republican hold on the state of Colorado,” Goodbee said.
Candidate, U.S. Senate
Miles opened by explaining that because his father is black and his mother is Japanese, he does not have Salazar’s five-generations of Colorado history.
“My great great grandfather was a slave,” said Miles.
He said he is proud of what his parents’ generation has accomplished. “We don’t want to be the first generation to leave this country in worse shape than when we got it,” he said.
Miles is one of one of eight children. Growing up in a large family taught him the art of compromise, an art that served him well as a cadet at West Point, as an Army Ranger and later as a diplomat, he said.
“We cannot solve the complex problems of the day if we elect politicians that look only for the fights they can easily win,” said Miles, who asked that delegates give him a shot at Republican candidate Peter Coors. The other GOP candidate is former congressman, Bob Schaffer.
“We need to put Peter Coors on the defensive, and I’d relish the possibility of debating him on international affairs,” Miles said. “At the end of the day it’s not name recognition that will beat Peter Coors, it’s our ideas. Victory will come from effort over pedigree.”
Rep. Mark Udall
Incumbent, U.S. House of Representatives
The incumbent was represented by a delegate to the county assembly who read a letter from Udall outlining his policies, as well as his difference of opinion with the Bush administration. Udall said Bush’s fiscal policies are terribly flawed.