14 November 2012: A new era for Clear Creek County

A new era for Clear Creek County

The results are in and Clear Creek, like the rest of the state and nation, not only remains blue, but is becoming increasingly so.  That assessment seems to fly in the face of the outcome of the commissioner races, both won by Republicans.  Both, however, were squeakers and decided not on the basis of issues or philosophy but on the personalities running.

The simple truth is that Randy Wheelock and George Clark would be our new commissioners if it weren’t for a number of Democrats jumping ship.  The reason for that assessment is that in every other contest, Democrats romped.

I call the jumping-ship Democrats “Tom Dems”: those primarily on the west end, whose knickers have been in a bunch since the primary in which Wheelock defeated Tom Bennhoff, supporting Phil Buckland and those countywide who voted for Tom Hayden rather than George Clark out of personal loyalty and decades-long friendships.

President Obama was the top vote getter in the county and in so doing enjoyed a greater margin of victory in Clear Creek than he did statewide: 54 to 51 percent or 3,041 votes compared to 42 percent and 2,381 for Mitt Romney.

In the Buckland-Wheelock faceoff, of the 5,400 votes cast—22 less than in the Obama-Romney race—Buckland got 2,784 (51.5 percent), thus outgaining the top of his ticket by 403 votes.  In his race, Hayden outperformed Romney by 341 votes.

In the other marquee races, Democrats swept: Rep. Jared Polis, 51 percent; Rep. Claire Levy, 53 percent; Bruce Brown, our new Fifth Judicial District Attorney, 53 percent; Angelika Schroeder (State Board of Education), 50 percent; and Steve Ludwig (University of Colorado Regents), 48 percent.

The biggest winner, however, was not a person, but personal freedom: Amendment 64, legalizing marijuana, garnered 64 percent (3,553), nearly 10 points higher—literally and perhaps metaphorically—than the rest of Colorado.

Elections are not, however, just scorecards; they have meaning and consequences.  The statistics help us understand where the voters are, which, in turn, ought to translate into public policy and governance,

The issues in front of Clear Creek, beginning with the I-70 Corridor, are enormous and complex.  The outgoing commissioners Kevin O’Malley and Joan Drury, in collaboration with ongoing commissioner Tim Mauck, have led the county over the past eight years in a thoughtful and deliberate manner, no easy task.  While many might disagree with them on one particular decision or another, I am convinced that had they not been term-limited and had chosen to run again, both would’ve won handily.

The reality is, though, Buckland and Hayden are our new commissioners, and with that the question arises: Are they up for the task?  They believe, as does a majority of voters believe, they are.  Time will tell if the voters’ judgment is affirmed or if buyer’s remorse sets in.

For Buckland, who owes his victory in no small part to the defection of west-end historical-preservationist Democrats, the question is whether he will be able and willing to rise above the inordinate pressures that will surely come from that quarter and act independently.

For Hayden, a potential personal conflict entails his relationship with the sheriff, his former employer.  How will that play out?

For both, one landmine area begins at I-70 exit 238 and ends at St. Mary’s.  Fall River Road promises to be for them, especially as Republicans, a damned-if you do and a damned-if-you don’t decision.  Another sits atop Floyd Hill.

My suggestion to Phil and Tom: Enjoy your honeymoon period which ends in January when you take your oaths.  Ahead lies the hard task of governance.  Best wishes for your success.

One other player in this story wasn’t running but has been heretofore the top county Republican: Sheriff Don Krueger.  Already there is speculation about whether Krueger will seek still another term in 2014.

For district attorney, the sheriff had endorsed Summit County Republican Scott Turner who has served as assistant district attorney under Mark Hurlburt.  In addition, he penned a forceful opinion piece for the Courant adamantly opposing Amendment 64.

Krueger finds himself on the losing side on both, decisively so with regard to the marijuana issue with nearly two-thirds of Clear Creek declaring otherwise.

A new era is about to dawn on Clear Creek with several of the key characters of recent time stepping aside.  It helps make living up here even more fascinating, especially for us politics junkies.

Next week: meaning state- and nationwide of the results.

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