Colorado's primary elections awkwardly fall on Tuesday, Aug. 10, just as citizens are in the midst of a summertime mindset -- off on summer adventure or just getting home from vacation to enjoy the rest of the lazy days until autumn.
But make no mistake, this election is crucial; in two El Paso County races -- District Attorney and El Paso County Commissioner District 3 -- no Democrat is running. That means that whoever wins the primary will be unopposed and thus ushered into office in the Nov. 2 general election. Several other local races are in largely Republican districts, meaning that whoever wins on Aug. 2., will likely be the next officeholder.
The following are the Independent's endorsements and recommendations for key Republican and Democratic races. An endorsement indicates a clear choice; a recommendation is for the most acceptable candidate running.
Democrat Mike Miles
For the past two years, Mike Miles' grass-roots campaign has been winning over the hearts and minds of the people of Colorado. The Fountain educator, West Point graduate, former Army Ranger and diplomat has principled, progressive positions on how to get the United States out of Iraq, how to heal our ailing medical system, and how to ensure equal opportunity for all Americans. His campaign is from his heart and his head, not from polls or the demands of big money special interests.
When he began running, the reform-minded Miles was a decided underdog in his challenge to unseat two-term Colorado Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell. While Democrat-turned-Republican Campbell struck colorful poses astride his Harley, Mike Miles was studying ways to truly ensure no child will be left behind. When Campbell was trucking a Christmas tree across the country from Colorado to Washington, milking all the free publicity he could get, Mike Miles was crafting affordable health care policies. Early this year, Campbell found himself in the midst of an office scandal involving his chief of staff and abruptly decided to retire. Meanwhile, Mike Miles was getting back to his foreign policy roots, figuring out ways to strategically and diplomatically extract the United States from the Iraqi quagmire. After Campbell announced he would not run for a third term, Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar entered the race at the behest of Colorado and national Democratic moneyed interests. And Salazar has raised an impressive pile of cash -- more than $2.5 million in just a few short months. But despite all his money, Salazar, a fifth-generation Coloradan, has not risen to the occasion. His campaign -- especially in El Paso County -- has so far been lackluster. In their face-to-face debates as well as at the state Democratic Convention, Miles' knowledge and passion for how best to represent the interests of all Colorado citizens comes through loud and clear. In comparison, Salazar basically touts the mainstream Democratic Party line on issues such as campaign finance reform, gay rights and healthcare reform.
Both Salazar and Miles are good men, with impressive track records. But for this election, your choice is clear: Mike Miles for U.S. Senate.
Republican Bob Schaffer
When Bob Schaffer was elected to the U.S. Congress, he made a solemn pledge that if elected, he would serve just three terms. Unlike other politicians who pledged to abide by term limits, most notably our own Congressman Joel Hefley now seeking his 10th term, Schaffer kept his word. For that he deserves our plaudits.
Schaffer is also a dyed-in-the-wool Christian conservative. His hard-right message is clear on everything from abortion to prayer in school.
Beer mogul Pete Coors, like Salazar, was convinced to run by national and statewide moneyed interests. And while his war chest is impressive (he has raised more than $1.6 million so far), he has not articulated detailed positions on the critical issues our country faces. Colorado Republicans would do well to vote for the clear conservative in this race -- Bob Schaffer, thereby giving Colorado citizens a clear choice this November.
House District 17
Republican Mark Cloer
For the past four years, Mark Cloer has well-represented southeast Colorado Springs, one of the most ethnically and economically diverse districts in the county. Cloer has won us over with his hard work coupled with his desire to be very accessible to his constituents. Cloer is a good listener and takes to heart his constituents' concerns.
Cloer has fought for Human and Social Services reforms, taking the courageous position that counties need real oversight. He is passionate about working to reform a healthcare system whose costs have spiraled out of control, leaving many of his constituents unable to afford basic care. He supports reforms to reduce prescription drug costs while ensuring fake drugs do not make it into the system. And, after working in the trenches at the state capital for four years, Cloer realizes that the state's current prison system -- in which far too many nonviolent offenders are simply thrown behind bars -- needs fixing. He supports reform programs to both ease the taxpayer burden for the cost of housing inmates and to establish rehabilitation programs, including putting the burden of paying for counseling onto lawbreakers rather than taxpayers.
A good Republican soldier, Cloer supports tax credits to stimulate new business and the economy. A free-marketeer, Cloer backs user-pay highway and mass transit programs. He supports the Taxpayer Bill of Rights and he voted with his party on a controversial congressional redistricting plan.
So why is Rep. Cloer facing a primary challenge this year? Plain and simple, he joined a majority of his colleagues at the state Capitol in opposing an unconstitutional voucher plan. In doing so, he raised the wrath of a handful of zealots who want to continue to squander taxpayer money in unsuccessful courtroom battles and who recruited candidate Linda Stahnke to challenge him in the primary. Cloer's rationale for opposing vouchers is not just based on Colorado's constitution, but also on his support of the separation of church and state, which in his mind means keeping the government from overseeing religion.
Bottom line: The citizens of District 17 deserve to have an experienced lawmaker working for all their interests, rather than a single-issue ideologue. Cloer deserves a third term.
4th Judicial District Attorney
Republican John Newsome
John Newsome and Dan May have been battling it out to win the Republican primary. Since there is no Democrat running for district attorney -- who oversees the crimes that are committed in El Paso and Teller counties -- whoever wins the primary wins the job.
Both are successful prosecutors, both are likeable, talented men. At 49, May has worked in the district attorney's office for 21 years -- the past 10 as the second in command. His boss, Jeanne Smith, has endorsed him, much as former District Attorney John Suthers anointed Smith -- his then second in command eight years ago. But this elected office should not be considered a titular reward, and frankly, the district attorney's office is overdue for reform.
Dan May has articulated that, if elected, he will continue business as usual. By contrast, John Newsome, 35, has indicated that he is not beholden to anyone -- an important distinction in this race. As such, Newsome, who has worked in the district attorney's office for 10 years, including as head of the juvenile division, has established an eclectic group of supporters -- ranging from the far right of Republican Party activists to trial lawyers to the Police Protective Association to the Chamber of Commerce. This is no accident. Newsome has clear and realistic ideas that range from figuring out better ways to decrease turnover in the resource-restricted office to improving relationships with law enforcement, improving the office's economic crime division, and more effectively using technology. He is pro-death penalty but understands that the need to respect the wishes of victims' families must be taken into consideration. He is anti-abortion, but, as does May, promises to uphold the laws as written. Unlike May, Newsome is concerned that the county's domestic violence fast track program -- which has resulted in people being held without bail and without access to an attorney -- needs a second look. And, though he is conservative through and through, Newsome agrees with many of his police brethren regarding the need to explore better solutions -- like effective rehabilitation programs -- rather than simply locking up nonviolent drug addicts.
Newsome's ideas are a breath of fresh air in an office that has gained a reputation of being beholden to entrenched GOP special interests. He deserves your vote.
County Commissioner District 2
Republican Margaret Radford
Part of us wants to take a bullet for the rest of the state, and actually endorse Douglas Bruce for the El Paso County Board of Commissioners. Our reason is threefold:
1. Unlike his Republican opponent, Margaret Radford, Douglas Bruce is the only candidate in this race who has run for office as a longtime Democrat. In 1979, California Democrats rejected Bruce's bid for the state Assembly, so he moved to El Paso County, and now claims, as any serious political animal would do, he is a true Republican. Bruce now pretends that he is opposed to government. But his many self-serving proposals -- all of which, beyond the 1992 TABOR amendment, have failed -- would have given him massive personal breaks on taxes and fees related to his business as a landlord. His unsuccessful lawsuits against government agencies have also cost taxpayers a bundle in court costs. In addition, Bruce's two other previous, unsuccessful attempts to win political appointments belie his claims that he is a "non-politician." If we endorse Bruce, perhaps he would win and be distracted with the public office he so obviously craves. Taxpayers across the state would benefit with hundreds of thousands of dollars that would otherwise be spent fighting Bruce's multitude of frivolous lawsuits.
2. The past two county commissioners representing this district include Tom Huffman and Betty Beedy, important newsmakers in their own right. If Bruce is elected, it will be the equivalent of a nuclear bomb. What does that mean for us? Well, news sells papers -- even free ones.
3. With Bruce distracted with the business of shutting down El Paso County's government operations, the rest of Colorado will be able to begin the post-Bruce rebuilding process.
However, the Independent cannot endorse Bruce. Among other reasons, Bruce recently offered to pay this newspaper to endorse his opponent, current Colorado Springs Councilwoman Margaret Radford. Mr. Bruce did not say how much he would shell out for a non-endorsement. But even if this man -- who is not known for his sense of humor -- was joking, the Independent does not accept bribes, -- especially from wanna-be politicians. While we have some reservations about Radford's candidacy (especially her vote to deny domestic partner benefits to city employees) she has proven herself to otherwise be a knowledgeable and thoughtful public servant. Her experience on City Council, dealing with land use and planning issues, is invaluable. Her expertise while negotiating the recent delicate water proposal between Colorado Springs and Pueblo is an indication of the type of persuasive politician we need to guide El Paso County into the future.
Electing Douglas Bruce would be a disaster for El Paso County. We recommend voting for Radford.
County Commissioner District 3
Republican Sallie Clark
Sallie Clark is the kind of overachiever that drives her opponents nuts. Clark, a former city councilwoman who has run unsuccessfully for Colorado Springs mayor twice, is challenging Jack Gloriod, a political newcomer who owns a successful real estate company.
One needs only to take a look at the two Republicans' brochures to see the difference. Gloriod, for his part a nice man, offers general statements like "I am a true conservative concerned about people" and "I think the government should be limited" and "I know growth is inevitable ..."
Clark, meanwhile, has an extensive dossier in community service. In addition to her two-year stint on City Council, Clark, who with her husband runs a bed-and-breakfast, is widely credited for saving Fire Station 3 from being shut down on the city's West Side. The myriad community boards and committees she's served on range from the Colorado Travel and Tourism Authority to the School District 11 Task Force, The National League of Cities Public Safety Committee, and the Colorado Republican Assembly, to which she was a delegate. She has been a champion of accessibility in government and, specifically in this race, deserves credit in convincing the county government to post its full $215 million budget online -- rather than requiring citizens who want the information to shell out $750 for a hard copy (to review the county's line-item budget, see www.elpasoco.com).
In addition to accessibility, Clark understands the necessity for county and city governments to work together to try to consolidate overlapping services such as parks and planning. She also understands the dangers of employing the use of eminent domain to seize private property -- and underscores this should be used only in cases where there is a clear public use.
When it comes to experience, Clark is clearly the more qualified of the two Republican candidates. Her breadth of experience makes her the standout candidate in this race.
County Commissioner District 4
Neither Auddie Cox nor his primary opponent, Dennis Hisey, has what it takes to replace the intelligent, hard-working 16-year County Commissioner Jeri Howells. We wish there were a better choice in this race.