Opponent’s campaign consultant rakes Stone | VailDaily.com
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Opponent’s campaign consultant rakes Stone

Ross Palmer

That’s right, I said the Stones. Not just Tom Stone, but also Henri Stone, the chairperson of the Eagle County Republican Party, who also happens to be Com-missioner Stone’s wife. Between the two of them, they have divided not only the Eagle County Republican Party, but our entire community.

Now it’s time for voters from across Eagle County to send a message that we will no longer tolerate divisiveness, extreme partisanship or a lack of integrity in our public officials.

For background, I’ve worked on more than a dozen political campaigns in Eagle County, including Tom Stone’s first-ever campaign in 1998. I’ve also worked for Democrats and Independents. And I’m proud of the performance of virtually every elected official I’ve helped reach office.

But I’m not proud of the Stones. Nor should you be. Here’s why:

The Stones have taken partisanship to a new extreme in Eagle County, causing a rift within the county Republican Party that has led to countless defections by longtime Eagle County GOP loyalists.

Even one of Stone’s staunch supporters recently admitted to me that Tom has angered a lot of people in the Republican Party and that he could well lose this election. And that Henri has been known to cause problems for him. So it seems that even Stone’s allies and supporters are somewhat fearful of a voter backlash. I almost fell off my chair when I heard this.

And although Tom is feeling the heat from many of these disaffected Republicans, it’s Henri’s bull-in-a-china-shop manner that has left so much bitterness in its wake. It’s one thing to be a proud Republican or Democrat. It’s quite another to target your enemies with vitriol and crass partisanship that has no place at the county level. In a nugget of pure 24-karat irony, Henri, who’s also Tom’s chief political strategist, may wind up being his biggest liability on Election Day.

But Tom’s behavior and his judgment are what’s really at issue here. And one anecdote is sufficient to demonstrate why Stone does not deserve your vote on Nov. 5.

As we all know, when it comes to county commissions and town

councils, we’ll always have conflicting egos, personalities and ideals. But never to the level that we all witnessed at Eagle County last year when, in what had to be the most tasteless attempt at a political hatchet job, Tom Stone used the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as a platform to disparage a fellow county commissioner. I personally cannot imagine anything more detestable than trying to capitalize politically on our generation’s greatest tragedy.

Yet that’s exactly what Tom did when instead of taking action during a time of crisis that would bring us together as a community, he went out of his way to foment anger amongst a few misguided veterans, who subsequently instigated the most ridiculous recall effort in memory.

No, Stone didn’t lead the recall charge. He knew, or more likely was advised, to steer clear of the actual recall campaign, which, as you may recall, failed miserably. But by continually and unnecessarily bringing forth a resolution that he knew his fellow commissioner didn’t want to sign, he sure lit the match that started the fire.

Now, it’s one thing to disagree with your political contemporaries – or as Stone views them, adversaries – and to voice that disagreement. It’s quite another to play any role whatsoever to overtly or covertly undermine them just because they see the world differently. I don’t think I’m being hyperbolic when I reference McCarthy and Nixon here. There’s simply no excuse for this type of behavior in our elected officials.

Then there’s the conflict of interest question. Here, Stone may not have broken any laws, but the appearance presents a problem. Questions of what he knew and when he knew it aside, Tom has yet to agree to recuse himself from future hearings and votes that involve a company with whom he is doing business, and from which he stands to profit handsomely. He has argued that there is no conflict. Even Tom’s supporters question his logic on this one.

Unfortunately, these examples of poor judgment and political gamesmanship are just that: examples. Problem is, they are not isolated. They demonstrate a complete lack of integrity and principles that we cannot and should not stand for. And Tom and Henri are equally guilty when it comes to targeting their enemies.

Just ask Jody Caruthers, the current Eagle County assessor and a Republican Central Committee member. “I was targeted by the Stones and I don’t know why,” said Caruthers. “I had other Republicans asking me why they were after me, and I simply don’t know the answer to that. She (Henri) split the party by supporting Joyce (Mack) over me.”

Why would Henri Stone do everything in her power to defeat an incumbent, Caruthers, from her own party’s Central Committee, especially given the fact that Caruthers would have run unopposed, thereby guaranteeing victory for the Republicans? Was it because the Stones weren’t pleased with their property assessment and subsequently appealed? Or was it because Caruthers didn’t vote for Henri as party chairperson? Or that Mack, Henri’s hand-picked replacement at the Republican Assembly, once lived with the Stones in Gypsum? We may never know.

And it gets worse.

Listen to the comments of longtime Eagle County Republican Steve Miller, who recently resigned his position as a Republican precinct captain after enduring what he termed a profanity-laced tirade from Henri aimed at Caruthers, followed by a campaign to oust Caruthers in a politically-charged August primary.

“Henri’s comments to me about Jody were mean-spirited, profane and completely unnecessary,” said Miller. “If she’s saying this to me, a party insider, what’s she saying in public? This is not the leadership I expect in the Eagle County Republican Party.”

Miller, who also says that at the Republican Assembly Henri Stone wouldn’t allow him to nominate a potential primary opponent for Teak Simonton in the race for county clerk and recorder, says he’s just one of dozens of Republicans who are fed up with the dictatorial leadership of the Eagle County Republican Party.

I can’t say I’m surprised.

As a supporter of Gerry Sandberg, I’ll undoubtedly be accused of being a partisan myself for penning this editorial. Ross works for the Democrats. What did you expect?

That’s right, I am currently working for the Democrats. But as many readers know, I used to work on behalf of the Republicans. Moderate Republicans, though. Those who weren’t out to discredit and demonize others.

Hopefully, Eagle County’s voters will see through the empty claims of

“promises kept.” Hopefully, voters will demand a commissioner with

integrity. Hopefully, enough Republicans, not to mention Democrats and

Independents, have had their fill of this duo.

And finally, I hope voters recognize that a split vote is what got Tom Stone elected four years ago. Don’t let the “Ralph Nader effect” keep him in office. Remember, every vote for the independent candidate in this election helps Tom Stone. And it brings Eagle County one step closer to the fringes of the extreme right wing.

Ross Palmer, a public relations consultant now based in Washington, D.C., maintains a home in Minturn and is working for the local Democratic Party on behalf of commissioner candidate Gerry Sandberg.


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