Vote after 4-1 vote, Douglas Bruce has earned the thinly veiled loathing of other El Paso County commissioners.
Which makes you wonder if Sallie Clark and Jim Bensberg did a little dance when they found out Amy Lathen was running for Bruce's seat in next year's election. Lathen, a 39-year-old conservative mother of three with plenty of experience working political campaigns, shares some of Bruce's views. But she's sweet-spoken and pro-cooperation. Her pretty face doesn't hurt her prospects, either.
Saturday, Lathen made it official with an announcement of her candidacy for the District 2 seat of El Paso County Board of Commissioners.
There's speculation whether Bruce will fight to retain his seat or direct his attention to Bill Cadman's soon-to-be vacant position as Colorado state representative for District 15.
Either way, Lathen doesn't care.
Here's why Lathen thinks she can win, with or without Bruce in the race.
Indy: What do you see as the county's major issues?
Lathen: Really, growth, water and public safety, which all blend together. Those are the major issues.
Indy: You've done a lot of studying on water issues in the area. Was there anything that surprised you?
Lathen: With water, we've got to really look at the future. Is water going to come out of the taps in the future? And what is that future 10 years, 15 years, 50 years, 100?
I'm very happy with the fact that El Paso County has a 300-year water rule, and the rest of the state has a 100-year water rule, because it does limit our growth, and I think that's a good thing.
Indy: You're against higher taxes. What would you do to resolve the county's budget issues?
Lathen: The whole essence of TABOR is to let people decide. Now within that, I certainly support something that has earmarks and guarantees to the people, [going on] the ballot. I'm not going to tell people what they should do with their own money.
Indy: The county is experiencing a lot of growth. What role should the county play in managing that growth?
Lathen: Well, the primary role of the county commissioners, the No. 1 time commitment, if you will, on agendas and things like that, is land use. ... After land use, of course, comes budget allocation. And then, because we are an arm of the state, we set policy. And, so, what does that policy say? Should we be allowing developments to go in with requirements of massive amounts of Kentucky bluegrass out in the eastern part of the county, where we don't have the water to support that?
Indy: There's a chance you'll be running against Douglas Bruce. Are you thinking about that?
Lathen: Sure I think about it, and I don't know what Doug is going to do. I have known him for years, and I have been completely open and honest with him. I went to him in October and said I was looking at running for this seat. Some of his indications are that he is not going to run for re-election, and then other times he seems to indicate that he is. So, I don't know what he's going to do, but this campaign is not about Doug Bruce. I will be running regardless of what he does.
Indy: Obviously, if it does come down to a choice between the two of you, you've got to have something that defines you as a candidate.
Lathen: I certainly believe in a number of things that Doug believes in, and obviously many of his constituents do. Many of the people in this county believe in some of his basic philosophy. And that's great.
But then you have to ask yourself, "What is being done to advance that agenda?" "That's the agenda that he has; how does he move that forward?" And he's not. I don't believe that just being the odd man out, the one vote in a 4-1 vote, is good enough. It doesn't do anything for the people of this district ...
The sitting commissioner does not even attend executive sessions with his colleagues. I will absolutely attend executive sessions. I will liaison to offices and departments in the county, which the current commissioner does not do. I will vote on resolutions and propositions, whatever they may be, proclamations that the Board of County Commissioners regularly present. If a 30-year employee is retiring from the county, I will vote to recognize that person and thank them for their service. So there are key distinctions in leadership that I believe will make me far more effective as a county commissioner.
Indy: Is there going to be a single issue that you think will come to define your campaign if Bruce runs?
Lathen: I think the key distinction will be leadership ...
[There are] certainly times when I sit in the meetings and I believe that Doug is right. I want to stand up in the meetings and say, "Hey, he's right, listen to what he's saying." But here's the thing: Nobody's listening to what he's saying because he has so ostracized people. ...
There are certainly more things. A perfect example were his comments a week ago about Schriever Air Force Base. [Bruce recently said he would not go to a dinner at Schriever, referring to such events as "ribbon-cutting ceremonies."] That he will not go out and speak with the commander at Schriever those comments he made from the dais. And that's not what the people have hired him to do, and that's not what they will hire me to do. I will interact with those people, and I don't need that line drawn between the feds and the county in order to simply be a leader, and to listen.
Indy: Do you expect any real competition if Bruce doesn't run?
Lathen: Well, I'm gearing up. I'm trying to be strong early, like I said. I've got a huge amount of support, and I don't know, [but] I imagine there will be other people who will throw their hat in the ring.
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