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Central Colorado wanders all over the political map

Brief by Central Staff

Politics – January 2007 – Colorado Central Magazine

GRANTED, people may be tired of politics at the moment, and we should have looked at the election results in our December edition. But as you may have noticed, the newer the technology, the longer it takes to get results. The Colorado Secretary of State’s office did not issue official election results until Dec. 1 — well after our December edition came out.

After a look at those certified results, we can conclude that Central Colorado and the San Luis Valley range across the political spectrum. For instance, we can consider the governor’s race, where Democrat Bill Ritter won statewide with 56.99% of the vote, defeating Republican Bob Beauprez, 40.16%; Libertarian Dawn Winkler-Kinateder, 1.50%; and three other tickets that combined for 1.35% of the 1,558,405 votes cast by Coloradans for governor and lieutenant-governor in the 2006 general election.

Hereabouts, Ritter’s percentage ranged from 77.85% of the vote in Costilla County (highest in the state, just ahead of Denver County’s 77.16%) to 42.12% in Custer County, where Beauprez got 55.69%. In other words, we’re all over the political map.

Based on the governor’s race, Custer is not the most Republican county in Colorado, even if it seems that way sometimes. Beauprez’s highest percentages came out on the plains, with him getting more than 60% in Yuma, Elbert, Cheyenne, and Washington counties. He also did well in traditional Republican strongholds like El Paso (57.22%) and Teller (57.55%) counties.

Which county most closely reflected the statewide results? Ouray in the San Juans was split 56.56%/40.19% Ritter/Beauprez, compared to the statewide 56.99/40.16. Of our counties, Chaffee was closest to the statewide percentages at 57.77/39.52.

The full Ritter/Beauprez gubernatorial run-down of our counties goes like this: Costilla, 77.85/19.90; Gunnison, 65.88/28.44; Saguache, 67.00/28.88; Lake, 64.91/30.34; Conejos, 64.61/33.04; Alamosa, 64.84/33.27; Chaffee 57.77/39.52; Mineral, 57.98/40.31; Rio Grande, 53.59/44.20; Park, 47.22/48.49; Frémont, 48.13/48.87; Custer, 42.12/55.69.

Libertarian Dawn Winkler-Kinateder got her highest percentage in Gunnison County at 4.0%, but she had a home-town advantage there. Elsewhere, her highest percentage was 3.55% in San Miguel County, where the sheriff, Bill Masters, is a Libertarian. Saguache County, at 3.11%, was the most Libertarian of our counties, other than Gunnison.

Enough about the gubernatorial race. There weren’t any surprises in our congressional races. Democrat John Salazar easily won another term in the sprawling Third District, defeating Republican Scott Tipton 146,488 to 86,930. The Third has 29 counties. Tipton won in only five: Montezuma, Montrose, Moffat, Mesa, and Rio Blanco. He didn’t even carry our Republican stronghold of Custer County.

In the Fifth, which is dominated by Republican El Paso County, Republican Doug Lamborn beat Democrat Jay Fawcett 123,265 to 83,431. However, for the second time in history, a Democrat managed to carry a county in the Fifth, which came into being in 1972 when Colorado gained a congressional seat after the 1970 census. In 2002, Curtis Imrie was the first Democrat to carry a county in the 5th, when he prevailed in Lake County in an election easily won by incumbent Republican Joel Hefley. This time around, Jay Fawcett actually carried two counties, both Lake (1,427-756) and Chaffee (3,692-3,525).

In the legislative races for state representative, incumbent Democrat Kathleen Curry won easily in the 61st District (Eagle, Garfield, Gunnison, Hinsdale, and Pitkin counties) — with no opposition, all 20,733 votes went to her.

In District 60 (all or part of Chaffee, Custer, Frémont, Park, Pueblo, and Saguache), incumbent Republican Tom Massey defeated Democrat Curtis Imrie 16,632-10,914. Imrie did carry Saguache County, though, 595-206.

Ken Chlouber’s attempt to return to the legislature — starting in 1986, he served in the House and Senate before term limits kept him from running for Senate again in 2004 — fell way short in House District 56 — Lake, Eagle, and Summit counties. Democrat Dan Gibbs won 15,273-7,509, and Chlouber didn’t even carry his home base of Lake County. After the election, Chlouber complimented Gibbs on running an energetic door-to-door campaign, “the kind I used to run.”

There weren’t any compliments to the winner from the loser in state Senate District 5, one of the hardest-fought races in the state this year. The largest senate district in the state (indicating how unpopulated our area is), it covers Alamosa, Chaffee, Conejos, Costilla, Delta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Mineral, Pitkin, Rio Grande, and Saguache counties. It includes Colorado’s poorest counties, Conejos and Costilla, as well as the state’s richest, Pitkin, whose seat is Aspen.

Democrat Gail Schwartz of Snowmass won a narrow 24,677-23,691 victory over Republican incumbent Lew Entz of Hooper. (We note in passing that to our knowledge, this is the only race where both candidates’ names ended in z).

Her big margin came from her home county, Pitkin, where she got 5,408 votes to Entz’s 1,248. She also carried Costilla, Gunnison, and Saguache counties, and she came close in Chaffee, getting 3,671 votes to Entz’s 3,681.

“There’s going to be one less farmer up there,” Entz said after the election. “I guess they want people up there who don’t know anything about agriculture and water.”

He blamed his loss on the endorsement of Schwartz by U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, a native of the San Luis Valley. It shouldn’t have come as that much of a surprise, since Salazar is a Democrat like Schwartz, and besides, in the 2004 U.S. Senate race, Entz endorsed Republican Pete Coors over Salazar. Sometimes Entz and Salazar have been political allies despite their different parties, but not always.

“I’d have won this deal if it hadn’t been for Ken Salazar. It’s just a case that he went south on me after promising that he’d stay neutral, then he told me she raised a lot of money for his campaign last time and is going to raise money for the next one. Money verses friendship, I guess,” Entz concluded.

Lew Entz has a long history of service to our country (U.S. Marine in Korea), our state (representative 1983-88 and senator 2001-2007), and his county (commissioner 1969-83). We wish he had chosen to leave office on a less sour note.