Why did Dems win from D.C. to Eagle County?
The Barack Obama tidal wave swept across the country and helped Democrats running for everything from dogcatcher to county commissioner win elections.
He certainly helped in Eagle County. Incumbent Democratic County Commissioner Peter Runyon, whose spending decisions over the past four years were skewered by his Republican opponent, Dick Gustafson, kept his seat by only a few hundred votes.
And while there was anger over the county’s decision to keep every cent of a 40 percent property tax increase, the voters who went to punch Obama’s name and then also selected all the other Democrats on the ballot ” whether they’d heard of the candidates or not ” no doubt helped Runyon to another four-year term.
One Republican, state House candidate Ali Hasan, who lost the wider race, got more votes in Eagle County. So that probably means there’s more to the local results than simply Obamamania.
Gustafson and the other unsuccessful Republican county commissioner candidate, Debbie Buckley, portrayed the Vail Valley as an electorate fed up with big government that wastes taxpayer dollars on affordable housing, open space preservation and jail expansion.
Apparently, the majority of Eagle County voters don’t feel that way.
Runyon’s victory, along with the elevation of Jon Stavney, who defended the decision to keep increased property taxes, shows residents are OK with the government being big enough to build homes and block some empty land from developers.
Still, the Gustafson-Runyon race was very close and almost resulted in the rare defeat of a sitting commissioner. That means there are serious concerns about county spending that Runyon, as the most experienced on the Board of Commissioners, needs to address more assertively.
The election results also show that maybe taxpayers, even in these treacherous financial times, were not so outraged that the county didn’t give them money back when they had the chance. Ultimately what it shows is that Eagle County is a bluer county where the voters don’t think government is the problem but that it can come up with solutions to problems the “free market” isn’t likely to solve.
Vail Daily Editorial Board