The diversity of the Four Corners region showed itself on Nov. 6, as politicians of all viewpoints were elected around the area and counties varied widely in their support for state and national candidates.
The only common thread seemed to be that turnouts were fairly high regionally. In Montezuma County, for instance, 12,285 people cast ballots, about 68 percent of registered voters, according to Clerk Carol Tullis. Turnout across Colorado was about 66 percent.
Montezuma County voted conservative when it came to candidates, going 60 percent for Mitt Romney in the presidential race (in contrast to the state, which went blue with 51 percent for President Barack Obama).
The county also chose the most-conservative of three candidates for county commissioner in District 3 by picking Larry Don Suckla, a popular rancher and auctioneer whose family is well-known in the area. Suckla, an unaffiliated candidate, grabbed 46 percent of the vote in a three-way race. Republican Dewayne Findley, a former oneterm commissioner, got 40 percent and unaffiliated Greg Kemp, a progressive, took 14.
But when it came to school-funding questions, the county showed a generous rather than a staunchly conservative heart, saying yes to three separate measures in three districts.
Measure 3B, which sought approval for a mill-levy increase that would raise approximately $21 million, had been strongly advocated by a broad coalition of local citizens. “Yes on 3B” yard signs sprouted thicker than dandelions across Cortez, and campaigners emphasized the rare opportunity to get a new school “at half price.” The effort paid off, as voters passed the measure by 62 to 38 percent. Its passage will allow School District Re-1 to access a $22.7 million BEST (Building Excellent Schools Today) grant from the state and build a 162,500-squarefoot high school on 35 acres near Walmart.
In Mancos, Measure 3A passed almost as handily with a 60-40 margin. The mill-levy override will mean an additional $276,000 per year to be used to recruit and retain teachers and support educational programs.
In Dolores, supporters of Measure 3C were asking voters for a mill-levy increase to provide $3.47 million over 20 years to access a $2.62 million BEST grant and perform repairs and upgrades to school facilities. Voters said yes by a 64-36 percent margin.
Supporters of the three measures had sweated the outcome Tuesday night, as the questions appeared to be winning easily with all 11 precincts reporting. However, more than half of the county’s ballot were cast by mail, and by law those ballots were tabulated last. Tired supporters finally went home to bed after a balky ballot-counting machine delayed final results until after midnight, but those results reflected the early ones. Other regional results included:
Dolores County, Colo.
Incumbent Commissioner Ernie Williams, D, won with 714 votes (62 percent) to Rodney Johnson’s 442 (38 percent).
La Plata County, Colo.
Two commission races were too close to call as of press time. Democrat Julie Westendorff had 13,821 votes to 13,577 for Republican Harry Baxstrom in District 3, and Gwen Lachelt, D, was up by just 78 votes over Kellie Hotter. But some 1,000 provisional ballots were still uncounted. The county went for Obama 54.5 to 45.5.
San Miguel County, Colo.
Art Goodtimes, the highest-ranking Green Party elected official in the state, won a third term in office with 43 percent of the vote vs. Dan Chancellor, D, 33, and Kevin Kell, R, 24. Incumbent Democrat Elaine Fischer was easily re-elected in the other commission race with a 67-33 margin over Steve Kennedy, R.
San Juan County, Utah
In a contentious three-way race for the county commission, incumbent Republican Bruce Adams came out ahead with 46 percent of the vote. Unaffiliated candidate Gail Johnson, a Tea Party sympathizer, garnered 28 percent, and Democrat Willie Greyeyes 26 percent.
In the 58th House District, which includes Montezuma County, incumbent Republican Don Coram walloped Democrat Tammy Theis, 62 to 32 percent, while Libertarian Jeff Downs picked up 6 percent.
However, in the reconfigured 59th District, which now includes much of La Plata County, incumbent Republican J. Paul Brown of Ignacio lost to Durango Democrat Mike McLachlan, 53 to 47 percent. McLachlan’s win helped Democrats retake control of the State House after two years as the minority.
All incumbent congressional representatives were returned to office, including Third District Rep. Scott Tipton, R, Cortez, who defeated Sal Pace 54 to 41 percent, with two other candidates picking up the remaining votes.
The state thumbed its nose at the federal government by passing a groundbreaking measure, Amendment 64, to regulate marijuana like alcohol. The measure won easily, grabbing 55 percent of the vote. The state of Washington also passed a similar measure, setting up a thorny issue for the Obama administration to deal with.
Colorado also overwhelmingly passed a measure calling for campaign finance reform and an amendment to the state constitution to reconfigure the state personnel system.
Voters overwhelmingly rejection Proposition 120, which would have asserted state control over federal lands. The measure failed by a 68-32 margin.
Romney, the first Mormon major-party presidential candidate, captured 73 percent of the state’s vote. In House District 73, Michael Noel, R, defeated independent Ty Markham, 72 to 28 percent.
A slim majority approved constitutional amendments aimed at streamlining the operation of the powerful Public Regulation Commission after a series of scandals.
In the Senate race, New Mexicans elected Rep. Martin Heinrich, D, with 51 percent of the vote, over former Rep. Heather Wilson, R. New Mexicans favored Obama 53-43 over Romney, with former Gov. Gary Johnson grabbing 4 percent as a Libertarian.