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While scandals have dominated headlines, sheriff candidates say there's more to the campaign 

Elder v. Maketa?

You could be forgiven for thinking El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa is running a campaign against Bill Elder. The duo has been in the news regularly, trading jabs. At the root of their dispute is a discipline file from Elder's former employment with the sheriff's office, which Maketa says was stolen and Elder says never existed ("Something missing?" cover story, Jan. 29).

But Maketa isn't running. He's term-limited and says he's eager to focus on managing his own business and to retreat from a spotlight that's been increasingly unkind. Once perhaps the area's most popular conservative, Maketa says he has no plans to run for office again. Some of his past moves — especially his support of certain tax increases — have upset party leaders, he says. He sums it up this way: "I haven't been a good little Republican."

The three candidates seeking the office — Elder, Jim Reid and John Anderson — are eager to prove that they are dyed-in-the-wool conservatives. With the Republican County Assembly on March 29, the candidates say they're focusing on the "real issues." That includes Elder, who says he's more worried about the other candidates than Maketa.

"I think they're out there a lot, and they're both very serious contenders," he says.

Currently, there are 1,181 delegates, according to El Paso County Republican Party executive director Daniel Cole, though that number is still in flux. That means a sheriff candidate now needs about 355 delegate votes to get on the primary ballot. Since it's a three-way race, and petitioning onto the ballot at this point is all but impossible, candidates are scrambling for support.

In speaking to the public and reaching out to delegates, each candidate is stressing his experience. Elder is a former lieutenant in the sheriff's office who currently is the Fountain Police Department's deputy chief. Reid was a division commander with the sheriff's office for nearly a decade, holding titles of deputy fire marshal and director of emergency management, before accepting a position as the county's executive director of public services. Anderson was sheriff from 1995 to 2003, before working for Lockheed Martin and going on to run his own businesses and teach.

All candidates have stressed their support for the Second Amendment. But there are some differences.

Elder says he's been touting his interest in consolidation and efficiency. He says he's watching for the results of a study on creating a single law enforcement dispatch center for the region, which could save money. (Maketa, by the way, isn't a fan of this idea, saying redundancies in dispatch mean a safer system.) Elder would also like to create a regional training center for all law enforcement personnel, further consolidating that function.

Reid says he's stressing the breadth of his experience.

"When you look at my background — large organizational management, incident command, emergency management, many years of that; my participation as the incident commander for the county in the Waldo Canyon Fire — I've got 10 years of recent experience in the office," he says. "It's not the same office it was 12 years ago, or 20 years ago. It's changed."

That last comment seems aimed at Anderson. Term-limited 11 years ago, Anderson says he's still knowledgeable about the office. And Maketa, who has endorsed him, agrees.

Anderson announced his candidacy late, on Valentine's Day, but says he's been "refreshed" by how many people remember his past service. He's emphasizing "continuity," saying he'd continue where Maketa leaves off.

stanley@csindy.com

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