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Republicans choose county candidates

Tamara Miller
Vail Daily/Coreen Sapp Richard De Clark listens as former County Commissioner Dick Gustafson speaks in support of De Clark's nomination for the District 1 county commissioner seat during the Eagle County Republican Convention at the Eagle County building Saturday morning.
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Richard De Clark has the ultimate campaign tool – his son.

De Clark, who won the Republican nomination for the upvalley county commissioner seat Saturday, knows that spreading the word about his candidacy is the best way to get support. Brian De Clark, 18, has done his part by talking to fellow students and teachers about his father’s pursuit for the commissioner seat. The teen-ager even passed up the Saturday sleep-in ritual to attend the Eagle County Republican assembly.

“I think he’ll be a really good commissioner,” Brian said. “He also knows what adolescents are doing in this valley.”

As the only Republican candidates for their seats, De Clark and midvalley county commissioner candidate A.J. Johnson easily won the support of the 42 delegates in attendance Saturday. Now they must win the support of the electorate in the general election, Nov 4.

Getting the vote out

Delegates have an important role to play in the November election, said Sen. Jack Taylor, who was in town to discuss his bid for re-election. Taylor, who’s from Steamboat Springs and represents Eagle County as part of the 8th District, urged delegates to get behind Republican candidates, and convince heir friends and neighbors to also support those candidates.

“Word-of-mouth advertising is the best advertising you can get,” he said.

Johnson, who served as the county’s sheriff from 1983 to 2003, punctuated the point during his nomination speech.

“I will work for you, but it won’t work unless you get involved,” he said, then was interrupted by a “phone call” by none other than the president of the United States.

“Thanks for calling, George,” Johnson said, then closed the prop phone and looked at the delegates. “You need support like that.”

Republicans need wins in November to keep a stronghold at the federal and state levels. The Grand Old Party holds a slight majority in the Colorado State Senate – 18 Republicans to 17 Democrats. Taylor, who faces Democrat challenger Jay Fetcher, told delegates that keeping a majority in the Senate is critical to accomplishing Republican goals.

There also is an opportunity for change in the U.S. Senate. Republican Sen. Benjamin Nighthorse Campbell has opted to not seek re-election. Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar has emerged as the Democrat’s candidate, while former congressman Bob Schaffer and brewer Peter Coors will face off for the Republican nomination.

In Eagle County, Democrats have the majority. District 3 County Commissioner Tom Stone, whose seat is not up for re-election this year, is the lone Republican. De Clark is vying for the District 1 seat against Democrat Paul Runyon. Democrat and incumbent county commissioner Michael Gallagher has not announced if he will seek re-election.

Johnson faces Democratic County Commissioner Arn Menconi and independent candidate Buz Reynolds, who is Avon’s mayor.

District Attorney Mark Hurlbert, a Republican, also is up for re-election. Delegates will consider his nomination during the 5th Judicial District Assembly next month.

The Republican platform

De Clark may be new to politics, but the local businessman knows how to get things done, said Dick Gustafson, a former county commissioner.

“I know he has the high level of integrity needed to be a county commissioner,” he said.

The more government can provide you, the more it can take away, Gustafson said.

“There are two kind of Democrats in this race,” he said. “Those who don’t understand that concept and those who understand it too well.”

De Clark told delegates he would work hard for them if elected to the board of commissioners.

Candidates each got two minutes to answer delegates’ questions. When asked about consolidation of the county’s various recreation district, De Clark expressed interest.

“We need to look at doing that,” he said. “But it needs to be a coalition of the willing.”

Johnson agreed, but stopped short of saying the county’s various districts should be consolidated. “I don’t like the word consolidation,” he said. “I’d like to see more of a blending of the districts.”

When asked about his views on growth and development, Johnson said he would keep an open mind. “We need to take care of Mother Nature in the process,” he said.

Hurlbert may be the only Republican candidate for the district attorney seat. But that’s not the only reason why delegates should vote for him, he said. Rather, his 10 years of experience and success in attracting and retaining experienced deputy district attorneys make him qualified to continue as the county’s chief prosecutor, Hurlbert said.

Staff writer Tamara Miller can be reached via e-mail at: tmiller@vaildaily.com or by calling 949-0555 ext. 607.

The candidates:

• County Commissioner, District 1 (upvalley): Democrat challenger Peter Runyon could face incumbent Michael Gallagher in an August primary if Gallagher decides to run. The winner will face Republican Richard De Clark.

• Eagle County Commissioner District 2 (midvalley & Eagle): Republican A.J. Johnson will face Democrat incumbent Arn Menconi, and independent Buz Reynolds.

• Colorado Senate District 8: Republican incumbent Jack Taylor will face Democrat challenger Jay Fetcher.

• Colorado House District 56: Democrat Gary Lindstrom will face Republican Heather Lemon.

• U.S. House District 2: Democrat incumbent Mark Udall faces no announced Republican challenger.

• Fifth Judicial District Attorney: Republican Mark Hurlbert faces Clear Creek attorney Bruce Brown.

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