The Mesa County Republican Assembly held on Saturday, March 24, ended with results that hint at a contentious primary season. With a beginning number of 5 candidates for the District 1 county commissioner slot, the assembly gave only two of them enough votes to appear on the primary ballot. Ken Henry, the present Mayor of Fruita, and John Justman, a farmer and businessman also from Fruita, won with 43 and 40 percent, respectively. Ed Stephens, Wes D'Aponti, and Christi Flynn all had under the 30 percent required to get on the primary ballot.
The District 3 county commissioner race was decided when, out of the 3 candidates, Rose Pugliese, an education reform advocate, lawyer, and mother and wife, won with a decisive 58 percent of the vote. She won out over Woody Walcher who had 28 percent, and Paul Nelson who had 14 percent. None of the losing candidates in either county commissioner race gave solid indications that they would attempt to petition on to the June primary ballot.
Pete Hautzinger, the District Attorney for Judicial District 21, and Ray Scott, the State Representative for District 55, were both unopposed and were elected to run for their posts by acclamation.
Laura Bradford, the embattled State Representative from District 54, spoke briefly, asking for the moral and electoral support of Mesa County Republicans. She was followed by two conservative Republicans who are also seeking the D54 State Representative seat. Rusty Price, an orchard owner and long time Republican activist from Palisade, and Jared Wright, a young police officer and former Mesa State College Student Body President from Fruita, also asked for the support of the assembly. House District 54 will have its assembly next Saturday, March 29, at which time it will be determined if Laura Bradford will be challenged by either Jared Wright or Rusty Price. With a three-way race going into the D54 assembly, there is a strong possibility that Bradford, who has been dogged by political and personal problems during her tenure, may not make it on to the ballot at all.
Numerous resolutions were debated and voted upon. One of the resolutions on the Mesa County Republican Party Platform is to repeal the Colorado caucus system. The caucus system as it stands is at best, convoluted, and at worst, impossible. Despite the feeling shared by many that the caucuses are work-intensive and sometimes problematic, many would agree that Saturday's successful Mesa County assembly was all worth it, and that the resulting victories and losses are an accurate reflection of the nature and character of the Mesa County GOP.