The race for the Board of County Commissioners is District 3 has turned into one of the county's most heated competitions, now stretching to November. Two-term commissioner Sallie Clark is vying for a third term, while newcomer Republican candidate Karen Magistrelli is mounting a surprisingly effective challenge.
Last month, at the Republican Party county assembly, delegates in District 3 showed Magistrelli notable support, voting to give her the top line over Clark on the June 26 party primary ballot.
And now, longtime Democratic activist and former El Paso County party chair John Morris has stepped into the race for the November general election, facing the Clark-Magistrelli winner.
According to Morris, his decision to launch his first-ever campaign for office came after it was clear that no other Democrat was going to step up to bat.
"After the county assembly, we did not have a candidate come forward," he says, "so we had a vacancy there. And over the last few months, I have tried really hard to get who I thought were very worthy people to run, but they for one reason or another chose not to do so."
"I just felt that I could not let what has gone on with the Republican Party for such a long time ... just let that pass, without standing up and saying, 'That's wrong,' " he continues. "I think that there's lots of frustration out there with the county doing things the same old way, the same old Republican way that has been for the past 40 years, and I am going to run against that. I am going to run against the machine."
Morris points to the controversial, and widely unpopular, 2010 ballot issue that has paved the way for Clark to seek a third term.
"I think that she really over-reached herself on this third-term thing," Morris says. "This is Sallie's retirement program; an extra third of a million dollars. And this business of manipulating the electoral process with that deceptive ballot issue, and using that for her own personal benefit. That really stinks, and somebody really needs to say that this really stinks."
Morris, a retired high school history teacher, worked for 27 years in Colorado Springs School District 11. He sees his campaign as an opportunity to give voice to the many concerns with county government that he hears, but feels all too often are ignored.
"I know that I am a way-underdog, but so what?" he asks. "For me, it's a matter of expressing my concern and outrage. And I think that this county is way more diverse than the halls of government would indicate."
"I have a strong message and I think that I offer a strong alternative."