The Mesa County Republican Party held their convention today, March 24th at the Avalon Theater in Grand Junction.
The main event was the election of county Commissioner nominees for Districts 1 and 3, currently held by Craig Meis, and one time Lieutenant Governor Candidate Janet Rowland. Both are term limited.
In the crowded District 1 field, Fruita mayor Ken Henry and Fruita area farmer John Justman came out ahead of their opponents, garnering 43% and 40% of the Delegates votes respectively. Both men will be on the June 26th Primary Ballot.
Area Realtor Ed Stephens finished with 54 votes, or 14%, with businessman and rancher Wes D’Aponti trailing the slate with 2%.
Kristi Flynn, who has opted to forego the convention route and petition onto the ballot instead, receive one write in vote.
Henry said that in an interview that the Primary race will show Mesa county Republican voters the differences in perspective between him and his opponent.
“My opponent has been constantly critical of Fruita, and what we have done there”, Henry said, referring to the recently opened Fruita Recreational Center. Although the City-backed center drew heat from some in the community, including Fruita gym-business owners, Henry points out that it was approved by a majority of Fruita residents, and has been a great success.
He also cautioned against the idea of “cut, cut, cut,”, and took on what he called a more “realistic attitude towards governance.”
“We need to be careful that we understand just what the County can do, and what it should not be doing” Henry said, pointing to an ongoing issue of the unincorporated, but densely populated Clifton area, which relies heavily on Mesa County for traditionally maniple level services. Henry also said that his main focus will be jobs. “While my opponent talks about Obamacare, that is not within the purview of a County Commissioner to directly address. The facts are that the problems that a County Commissioner can and must deal with are job growth and economic development.”
Justman said that he was thrilled to be on the ballot, and made a point to thank his wife, who has been a “constant source of advice, support and assistance”.
Justman also said that he was “more conservative” than his opponent, and that he was a staunch supporter of private property rights.
“From what I have seen in Fruita, I can’t say that (Mayor Henry) is.”
Ed Stephens said he would not seek to petition onto the ballot, pointing out that it was “difficult to raise funds” that way, and that with the deadline to collect signatures a scant 11 days away, that there probably was simply not enough time.
On the other end of the Valley, the contest to replace Rowland as commissioner from District 3 resulted in Palisade lawyer Rose Pugliese running away with 58% of the votes, followed by retired businessman Woody Walcher with 27%, and realtor and former city council member Paul Nelson brining in 14%.
Pugliese, the 32 year-old business owner, attorney, and 2011 LPR graduate said that she was happy to be going forward, and that she was ready to face her Democratic opponent for the seat.
“My campaign will not change,” Pugliese said, indicating that her priorities remain the same now as they did in the run up to the county Convention.
“My priorities are the budget, public safety, working with business owners, and getting government out of the way of job creation and productivity.”
During her speech to the convention Delegates, Pugliese, with around two dozen supporters backing her on stage, said that for every issue that came before her she would ask “is this the proper role of government?” citing as an example public safety as being the primary legitimate function of government.
She said that Nelson had told her he would not seek to petition onto the ballot. Walcher said that he had not as yet decided if he would pursue that option. Party rules allow a candidate who has received less than 30%, but more than 10% of the delegate vote at the Convention to seek the nomination through petition.
Barring a petition-nominated primary race, Pugliese will face Democrat David Edwards in the November general election.