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Voters get early look at Republican slate

Veronica Whitney
Vail Daily/Shane Macomber From top left, Tom Harrison, Barb Bunner, Don Laughlin and Esther Mehl. Sitting, from left, Don Olsen, Johnnette Phillips and Clint Mehl at the Eagle Republican Caucuses Tuesday evening in Eagle.
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Republican Jon Harrison said he comes to caucus every year to participate in the local political process.

“It’s important for all of us to show an interest in who becomes a public official,” said Harrison, a Republican of 30 years who attended Tuesday’s party caucus in Eagle.

“Most of the candidates will also show up and I’d like to listen to them,” said Harrison, 57, a delegate at the County Assembly for the past years who also has been a delegate at the State Republican Assembly four times.

Unlike the Democrats, who on Tuesday met in one place in Edwards, the Republicans had 10 caucus locations to pick delegates to the County Assembly.

Heather Lemon, a candidate for the state legislature, said she didn’t expect a big turnout because the Republicans don’t have any contested races so far.

“It’s hard to get people to come to this,” said Lemon, who was touring the different caucus locations with Republican county commission candidates Richard De Clark and A.J. Johnson, who are running for different seats. “It’s hard to get people to do stuff at this level. The delegates can make a difference, so I expect more people showing up for the Democrat caucus,” she said.

The Democrats might have a contested race for the seat held by County Commissioner Michael Gallagher, who has said he intends to run and will officially launch his campaign in a few weeks. He will face a challenge from Peter Runyon, an Edwards resident who officially entered the race last week.

Tuesday was the second time that Gary Gilman, 46, of Eagle, participated in the Republican caucus.

“I want to support the party and I’d like to listen what the platforms they are running on,” he said.

Harrison, Gilman and half a dozen Republicans gathered at the county building weren’t disappointed. The local candidates stopped in Eagle before heading upvalley.

“I’m running for office because this is my home,” said former Eagle County Sheriff A.J. Johnson, the sole Republican contender for County Commissioner Arn Menconi’s seat. Avon Mayor Buz Reynolds, an independent, is another challenger for Menconi’s seat representing parts of Avon, Edwards and Eagle.

De Clark, an Edwards businessman, will challenge the Democratic nominee for Gallagher’s seat in November. “I’d like to bring better communication between the commissioners, something that is lacking now,” De Clark said.

Lemon is taking a second shot at the state House seat representing Eagle, Summit and Lake counties. She won a majority of the votes in Eagle but lost the race to Rep. Carl Miller. “I will be running again a clean campaign,” Lemon said.

Summit County Commissioner Gary Lindstrom, a Democrat, is her likely challenger.

After making an appearance in Eagle, the three candidates jumped in their cars – De Clark and A.J. Johnson carpooled – and headed up valley.

Aside from choosing the delegates, talking to the candidates and mingling with fellow Republicans, the caucus also offered time to organize for the upcoming local, state and national elections.

“I’ll guarantee you’ll have a great time as a judge,” said Eagle County Clerk and Recorder Teak Simonton as she recruited election judges. “It’s a paid position and you get great food.”

The pay is $10 an hour.

At Berry Creek Middle School in Edwards, Beverly Trout, a Republican from the unincorporated community, said spending constraints will be one of the major challenges the candidates will face if elected.

“At the local and state level it’s important that we elect candidates who understand that they are stewards of our resources,” she said.

Nancy Dooher said she is very pleased with the Republican candidates this year.

“I’m ready to support them,” said Dooher, who lives in Edwards and also attended the caucus at the Berry Creek Middle School. “I hope the candidates stick to the Republican platform. And that is smaller government and lower taxes.

“I’m here today because things happen at a grass root level,” she added.

Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454 or at vwhitney@vaildaily.com.


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