Saturday, November 17, 2018
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Some heat in the fall election

If you are registered to vote you should have your ballot before the week ends. They were dropped into the mail Tuesday. While there is no contested Crested Butte race with county commissioner Phil Chamberland running unopposed, there is still a trio of county office races, and of course the state election.
Given the lack of an immediate north valley race, I was caught a bit off guard last week when the Crested Butte News Candidate’s Forum drew a packed house. The sheriff’s race is getting heated and people from the south end of the valley made the Friday trip to put the two candidates on the hot seat.

The other four county candidates received some questions at the forum and the only race that became crystal clear for me for the clerk/recorder. Both Kathy Simillion and Jane Wyman were nice and polite and touted experience. Simillion’s experience, however, is directly in the clerk/recorder office and while bringing up some places for improvement, she conveyed a comfortable sense of continuing the success of the office. Her demeanor reflected a calm influence that would carry on what seems to be a pretty good department in Gunnison County. I’ll be voting for Kathy Simillion in that one.

In a similar way, the treasurer’s job has a candidate with hands-on experience in the department. In this race, it appears both Debbie Dunbar and William Spicer could step into the top job and run a good office. Both were personable and conveyed confidence at the forum. It seemed either could successfully lead a department in Gunnison County and I wish both could somehow get elected. Both have skills and both hope to improve the office by bringing in better use of technology. But given the experience-in-the-office factor, I think Dunbar probably deserves the tiebreaker and she will get my vote this time.

Now to the heat. In some ways it has always been a little odd to me that the sheriff’s position is an elected one. It seems that in this particular situation, job skills versus political acumen should be the measure for such an office. Outside of some potential civil liberty concerns I’d rather have a cop who knows what he or she is doing versus a cop who can speak well in a campaign. No worries for us—both Rick Besecker and Scott Jackson can cite a good level of experience and neither will win orator of the year awards. More significantly, both have won awards for saving lives.

One thing that struck me at the forum was the passion from the supporters of both candidates. It was deep from those in the audience Friday. And while the gloves sometimes came off between incumbent Besecker and lieutenant Jackson, I also saw them share a few moments of what looked like friendly whispering exchanges a few times at the forum.
Neither Rick nor Scott appears like he will infringe on our civil liberties. Neither will turn into Sheriff Joe of Maricopa County, Arizona and stop every Latino driving Highway 135 and ask for their papers or force those in jail to wear pink underwear. More important, given that whoever is elected sheriff will carry on the contract with the Mt. Crested Butte police department to act as the sheriffs at this end of the valley, this race has more of a day-to-day impact down-valley.

Both men seem to be willing to make the effort and return a full-time victim’s advocate to the county. Jackson says he’ll prioritize a more visible sheriff’s presence in Crested Butte South. Besecker says that is a budget issue. Both point fingers at the other for lacking some leadership skills. Neither convinced me that the other was going to take the department into the toilet and neither made me want to go out and put a sign in my yard. While this is certainly the hot race in the county, I’m not understanding the spice and I’m still trying to figure this one out.

There are some big races at the state level that should get you to take the time to fill out a ballot. The national political parties and their Political Action Committees are inundating the state with all sorts of ads for and against the governor and the U.S. Senate race. From this mountain town perspective, John Hickenlooper is a good, moderate governor who truly is not a standard politician. While we don’t agree with every position, he has been a thoughtful leader of Colorado and his opponent just comes across as too vested in the national Republican conservatism. Go with Hickenlooper for governor.

That could be said about the candidates in the senate race as well. Cory Gardner is a conservative Republican who could shift the U.S. Senate over a line of conservatism that would not reflect this valley or this state. Mark Udall on the other hand has courageously been very outspoken and critical about the administration’s position on spying and government encroachment on individual privacy. I really appreciate that. Overall, Udall understands concerns of rural Colorado and the people living in a mountain valley. In fact he has lived in a mountain valley…this one. Vote Udall in the U.S. Senate race.

Next week, we will touch on the tax proposals on the ballot.

—Mark Reaman

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