County assembly narrows field for primary

Republican County Chairman Davey Smith, left, Ron Hilkey, right, and Joe Fennessy reviewed the rules before the start of last Saturday’s county assembly. Delegates from Meeker and Rangely voted on two contested races — county commissioner and coroner — and several single-candidate positions.
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Republican County Chairman Davey Smith, left, Ron Hilkey, right, and Joe Fennessy reviewed the rules before the start of last Saturday’s county assembly. Delegates from Meeker and Rangely voted on two contested races — county commissioner and coroner — and several single-candidate positions.RBC I Saturday’s Republican County Assembly narrowed the field for August’s primary election.
By how much remains to be seen.
Wendy Gutierrez was the only county commissioner candidate to receive the needed 15 votes to have her name put on the ballot. She was the top vote-getter with 23. Representatives from both ends of the county made up the 50 delegate votes.
A required 30 percent of the delegate votes was needed for a candidate’s name to appear on the primary ballot.
“That means it will take 15 votes to get on the ballot here in Rio Blanco County,” said Davey Smith, Republican county chairman.
While pleased with her results, Gutierrez was surprised the other commissioner contenders didn’t also qualify.
“I wanted to get on the ballot, but I didn’t expect for them not to get on as well,” Gutierrez said. “The race will continue … I really think the voters need a choice, so I’m not feeling too cocky about being the only one on the ballot.”
Commissioner candidate Pat Hughes finished second in the delegates’ secret voting, which was used for the contested races. He received 14 votes, one shy of the number to automatically have his name placed on the primary ballot.
“I haven’t made any decisions yet,” Hughes said. “I will continue to listen to the people in Rio Blanco County and try to do what they feel is best.”
The third commissioner candidate — Shawn Bolton — received 12 votes. There was one spoiled ballot, which was disqualified.
“I will petition on the ballot,” Bolton said. “I gave my word to the people I would take this all the way and I will.”
In the other contested race — for county coroner — Sherri Halandras and Dr. Albert Krueger were the top vote-getters, with each candidate receiving the necessary number of votes to advance to the primary ballot. August’s countywide primary election will be by mail ballot.
“I was very pleased with the results at the assembly,” Halandras said. “I believe the results showed broad support from both ends of the county. I am looking forward to a summer campaign and the August election. I would also like to thank everyone for their time and involvement in this year’s election process.”
Krueger, the other coroner candidate who received enough votes to be placed on the primary ballot, said, “I was very pleased with the support from the delegates and I am very thankful. It is very exciting to be part of this grassroots process. I am looking forward to the upcoming primary election. I am confident that I am very well qualified for the job. I think I have a good chance to be the county coroner in 2011.”
County Clerk Nancy Amick explained the process for a candidate to petition to be put on the ballot.
“The first day that a candidate may circulate a party petition is March 29, and the deadline for filing is May 27,” Amick said. “The candidate must obtain valid signatures from electors registered with the party for at least 29 days prior to signing the petition. They cannot sign a petition for more than one candidate for the same office. The candidate must obtain valid signatures equal in number to 20 percent of the votes cast for that office in the last primary election in which the office was on the ballot. For the office of county commissioner, it is 189 signatures, and for the coroner office, it is 188.”
Amick said the last time she remembered a party petition being filed was in the mid-1990s.
In the coroner race, Halandras finished with 23 votes, while Krueger had 15.
Two other candidates — Rob Baughman and Nancy Richardson — both received six votes, enough to petition to get on the August ballot.
“I know from my voting experience, both locally and nationally, that the votes of delegates or Electoral Colleges are not always what the general population wants,” Richardson said. “Before I had even left Richards Hall after the assembly, I had several people ask me if I was going to try to petition on to the ballot. … However, because I was a Girl Scout, a Scout leader and somewhat of a perfectionist, I already had my petitions ready, and have started getting signatures in order to ‘be prepared,’ just in case I do decide to petition.”
Five votes were needed to qualify to file a petition.
“At this time, I don’t think so,” Baughman said when asked if he planned to petition to get on the ballot. “I guess I’ll just go back up into the high country and wander around for (Sheriff) Si (Woodruff), that’s more enjoyable anyway.”
Baughman is a part-time seasonal deputy for the Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s Office.
Woodruff, along with fellow incumbents Nancy Amick (clerk), Karen Arnold (treasurer) and Renae Neilson (assessor) were the only candidates for their offices and all received approval by acclamation.
“If we don’t have 15 hands up, they don’t get on the ballot,” said Republican county chairman Smith.
The secret ballots in the two contested races were collected and counted by tellers — a person from each of the county’s five voting precincts.
All of the incumbents easily received the necessary votes. As did Leif Joy of Joy Surveying, who was also approved by acclamation to succeed his father, Jim, for the role of county surveyor.
“I would like to acknowledge my father for paving a path for the county, and I look forward to following that path and serving the county,” Leif Joy said.
After being nominated, each candidate was given three minutes to give an acceptance speech.
State Republican candidates who were not in attendance had local representatives speak on their behalf, including David Smith, who endorsed gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis. He happens to be married to Smith’s daughter, Lori.
“I couldn’t pass up this chance. I figured I should put in a plug for Scott,” the elder Smith said. “Scott is my son-in-law. He sometimes says I’m his father-in-law. Either way, I’m very proud of him. He’s a very talented guy and he would make us a good governor.”
“You wouldn’t be partial would you?” Davey Smith jokingly asked his father.
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Rio Blanco County’s Republican Party will send 11 delegates and 10 alternates to the state assembly May 22 in Loveland. There will be more than 3,500 delegates in attendance. Only the delegates are eligible to vote.