Will Republicans reclaim Eagle County seats? | VailDaily.com

Will Republicans reclaim Eagle County seats?

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” The Republican party isn’t doing too well in Colorado, said state representative candidate Muhammad Ali Hasan, but he thinks the party can make a turnaround.

“We’re gonna take back Colorado, and it’s not gonna be easy, but we can do it,” he told Eagle County Republicans at the county assembly.

Hasan’s sentiments are not unlike those of other local party members’, who say they think this could be the year that Republicans can regain some ground in county and state elections.

Eagle County Republicans Chairman Randy Milhoan said he thinks the party has especially strong candidates this year, but the races will still be tight.

The party especially has its eye on taking back some seats on now all-Democrat county board of commissioners. Avon resident Debbie Buckley will run against Democrat John Stavney for Arn Menconi’s spot, and former commissioner Dick Gustafson will be challenging incumbent Peter Runyon for his seat.

“For county commissioner, both (candidates) have responsible attitudes about taxation and how money will be spent. I think the county is ready for that,” Milhoan said.

Donna Spinelli, who heads up the Eagle County Republican Women, said she thinks residents are ready for a change of regime.

“There’s a lot of dissatisfaction this year with the current commissioners and their willingness to spend money,” she said, pointing out the early childhood development program and recent open space purchases.

In state elections, Milhoan said that Al White, who is running for State Senate District 8, has the advantage of having been in the area for many years.

Hasan, who is running for House District 58, is a “fresh, new face,” said Spinelli.

However, Milhoan said Hasan’s success might depend on how a sticky situation involving a restraining order against the candidate turns out.

A couple weeks ago, Hasan’s former girlfriend and publicist filed the order against Hasan, and a judge has yet to hear the case.

“It’s unfortunate,” said Milhoan. “We’ll just have to see how it all sorts out.”

Still, local Republicans must face the fact that they lost much ground in the last elections.

Spinelli said she thinks President Bush’s low popularity during the last elections hurt local Republican candidates, and she is worried it could happen again this year.

“People look at the ballot and don’t know who the candidates are. They vote Democrat for president, so they vote Democrat locally. I’m concerned that will trickle down to the local level again,” she said.

Spinelli said the strategy will be to get residents familiar with local issues instead, an approach that Buckley is also embracing.

This year’s elections will be less about parties and more about non-partisan issues, such as higher property taxes that hit all homeowners, Buckley said.

“My campaign color is purple because we’ve got to reach out across party lines to different issues,” she said.

Changing people’s minds about party lines will also require a change of campaigning strategy.

“These races are going to have to be won by knocking on doors, and walking and walking, and talking to people,” Milhoan said.

The last election, State Sen. Dan Gibbs, D-Silverthorne, won the State Representative District 56 seat with a door-to-door campaign, and the Republicans can do the same this year, Milhoan said.

That image of the Republican party is something Hasan said he wants to change.

“The reason we’ve lost the House, Senate and governorship is that we’ve been operating like a members-only club. People don’t think we care,” he said when he announced his candidacy.

His campaign will focus on hosting town hall meetings and going door-to-door in the community, he said.

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.

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