No bipartisan politics for this commissioner’s seat
Whoever called American politics bipartisan hasn’t taken a look at this year’s Eagle County Board of Commissioners race. For the second election in a row, there will be three candidates vying for the District 2 seat, which represents parts of Avon, Edwards and Eagle. In each of those elections, voters were asked to choose either a Democrat, a Republican or an unaffiliated candidate to be their representative. Is it just a coincidence that this seat has twice become a three-horse race? Independent candidate Buz Reynolds, Jr. doesn’t know.”I just know the reason why I ran unaffiliated,” he said. “I feel it’s important to represent the entire county.””I don’t see any correlation,” added Republican candidate and former county sheriff A.J. Johnson, adding it isn’t unusual to have candidates from both of the major American parties and an independent in an Eagle County race. Statistically, it may make sense that unaffiliated candidates would frequently run for office. While the two major political parties seem to dominate most statewide and national races, the majority of Eagle County residents – 36 percent – are unaffiliated with any political party.”I think most people like to think they are independent and not affiliated with any one party,” said Eagle-Vail resident Bill Post, a registered Republican.Post said its good for voters to have choices.”But I’ll probably vote for Buz Reynolds, Jr., because I know him,” Post said.Third-party spoiler? Democrat Arn Menconi, the incumbent candidate who ran against Republican Steve Morris and independent Kathy Warren for his seat in 2000, said independent candidates garner the fewest votes in three-candidate elections. However, an unaffiliated candidate’s presence definitely has an affect, he said. “I felt that Kathy Warren sort of pulled votes from me in my race because she had thought she was a Democrat, then realized she was an independent,” Menconi said. “Philosophically, people may have perceived her as similar to me and then she also was the only female in the District 2 race.”Menconi won the seat by only 39 votes.A similar dynamic may have played out in recent races for the District 3 seat, which represents the westernmost part of the county. In 1998 and 2002, voters also were asked to choose between three candidates. County Commissioner Tom Stone, a Republican, won the seat in 1998 by less than 600 votes. He received 4,188 votes to Democrat Jacque Whitsitt’s 3,675 votes. June Deane, the unaffiliated candidate, received 1,304 votes. Four years later, Stone was re-elected by 640 votes. He had 5,176, Democrat Gerry Sandberg had 4,536 and Laurie Bower – who lost the Democratic nomination in the primary and chose to run unaffiliated in the general election – had 1,772. More choice?So far in this election, the similarities between the three candidates seem more apparent than their differences.All three have lived in Eagle County for more than a decade and have served as elected officials in this county already. Johnson, a 27-year resident, served as Eagle County’s sheriff for 20 years, until he was term-limited from running again. Reynolds, who came to the valley 28 years ago, has served eight years as an Avon councilman. For the last two years Reynolds has been Avon’s mayor. Menconi moved to Eagle County in 1991. Soon after he started the Snowboard Outreach Society, a nonprofit group that works with underprivileged children by bringing them to the mountains to learn how to snowboard. He decided to run for public office in 2000.Spending four years on the board has given him the experience to continue, he said. He added it would be a disservice to the public for a sitting commissioner to only serve one term.”The other candidates are good men,” he said. “I’ve worked with both of them over the past four years. But the county commissioner’s job takes a lot of training and that takes a lot of understanding – something as simple as understanding who the contacts are in the community and how to get things done is something to develop.”As the owner of construction company, the Reynolds Corporation, Reynolds believes he has the kind of knowledge about the community a commissioner needs.”I actually started at the ground up, working in Eagle County, working my way politically in the town of Avon,” Reynolds said. “Also my business and my contacts throughout the county have given me more of an understanding of the way the county runs.”Johnson has been involved in the community for years and sees the commissioner seat as the next step for him. He is eager to serve as a policy maker, he said. “A couple of years ago I started looking at the possibility of moving up into a different area of the political arena, and helping create things,” he said. “I think Eagle County could be a catalyst for a variety of things.” No mud slingingWhen asked to critique Menconi’s performance as a commissioner, Johnson and Reynolds declined to make any specific comments.”I promised myself I wouldn’t be doing any negative campaigning,” Reynolds said. “I think anybody who takes on the job as a politician ought to have the public’s admiration. It’s kind of a thankless job – I’m doing it for the love the community.”Johnson said it’s not his place to say how Menconi has served the county.”I really think that’s up to the public to make that opinion of him,” he said. “I’m running for the citizens of Eagle County. I’m not running against or for Arn Menconi.”Johnson said he would like to see more cooperation between the county government and individual town officials. “We need to work together on issues,” he said. “And we need to have a lot of collaboration on projects.”Reynolds also said he would like to see better communication between the county and towns. But, he added, it is difficult for three commissioners to really represent the entire county, which is why Reynolds said his campaign platform is to push for a five-member board of county commissioners.”I’ve always thought that was an important way of getting a more Democratic vote with the county,” he said. Menconi refers to the course he created, called “Shaping the Future of the Eagle Valley”, as one of the ways he has encouraged collaboration among community members. Staff writer Tamara Miller can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or by calling 949-0555, ext. 607.===========================================================Election InfoCandidates for District 1, which represents Vail, parts of Avon and parts of Edwards:• Richard DeClark, Republican• Peter Runyon, DemocratCandidates for District 2, which represents parts of Avon, Edwards, Eagle and Wolcott:• A.J. Johnson, Republican• Arn Menconi, Democrat• Buz Reynolds, Jr., Unaffiliated (independent candidate, not to be confused with the Independent political party)Upcoming dates: Primary election: Aug. 10 (deadline to register to vote was July 12)General election: Nov. 2Deadline to register to vote in general election: Oct. 4 =============================================================
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