Voters say yes to the GOP, no to ballot issues

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Nov. 2 was a good night for Republicans in Montezuma County.

Voters favored every Republican candidate on the ballot, locally or statewide, and Republicans won the only three contested races in the county.

Cortez Police Sgt. Dennis Spruell realized a long-held dream when he garnered 60 percent of the vote to win the race for sheriff over two unaffiliated candidates, Jerry Ayers (29 percent) and Sam Sparks (11). Spruell had always hoped to finish his lengthy lawenforcement career as sheriff, he told the Free Press.

“I’m kind of really riding the dream right now,” Spruell said the morning after the election. “I’m excited. I had a lot of people telling me it was going to go this way but I didn’t want to believe it till the votes were counted.”

Spruell said he will be “a constitutionalist sheriff.” “I believe in the Constitution, I’m going to support the Constitution.”

He also said he will be a “community sheriff” who will reach out to the citizenry through various methods, including booths at fairs and trade shows, in order to make himself approachable.

He also pledged to bring the broader law enforcement community together. “Rather than just being a law-enforcement department, I want to combine all our efforts – the city police, sheriff’s department, highway patrol and so on – because bad guys don’t have boundaries. I work well with all the other agencies and I know I can do that.”

Spruell will replace Republican Gerald Wallace, who initially chose not to run again, then tried but failed to get on the ballot as the American Constitution Party candidate.

Incumbent County Commissioner Steve Chappell easily grabbed a second term in office with 93 percent of the vote. His only opponent was a write-in candidate, Jim Cooper.

Two-term County Clerk Carol Tullis coasted to a victory over her Democratic challenger, Tammy Neely, with 66 percent of the vote.

Republicans Sherry Dyess (treasurer), Mark Vanderpool (assessor), Ernie Maness (surveyor) and Charlie Rosenbaugh (coroner) were unopposed.

Southwest Colorado

Montezuma County voters even favored Republican Dan Maes, who got just 11 percent of the vote statewide, in the governor’s race, giving him 38 percent, John Hickenlooper 37 percent and American Constitutionalist Tom Tancredo 22 percent. Hickenlooper won the contest statewide with 50 percent.

Locals likewise went big for Tea Party candidate Ken Buck for the Senate, giving him 59 percent of the vote. Buck, however, was apparently edged out by less than 1 percentage point by incumbent Democrat Michael Bennet statewide in a teeth-gnashingly close contest. Interestingly, Montezuma County gave 250 votes to Green Party Senate candidate Bob Kinsey – about five times as many as there are registered Greens in the county.

Republican Russ Wasley had no difficulty unseating incumbent Mac Myers to become district attorney in the 22nd Judicial District, which includes Montezuma and Dolores counties. Wasley captured 60 percent of the vote in the district.

Cortez businessman Scott Tipton, a Republican, managed to oust incumbent Dem John Salazar in the 3rd Congressional District, a seat that traditionally switches from one party to the next over the years. Tipton grabbed 50 percent of the vote on his second try for the office, while Salazar had just 46 percent.

Republicans won all three legislative races in Southwest Colorado, with Ellen Roberts capturing the 6th District State Senate seat, Durango’s J. Paul Brown triumphing in the 59th House District, and Montrose’s Don Coram winning in the 58th.

In Dolores County’s only contested race, incumbent County Commissioner Julie Kibel (R) was re-elected easily with 780 votes to Democrat Cliff Bankston’s 216.

Ballot questions

Across Colorado, voters just said no to a slew of ballot questions. Three tax-slashing provisions – Amendment 60, Amendment 61 and Proposition 101 – failed big statewide as well as locally. 60 got just 24 percent of the statewide vote, 61 got 27 percent and 101 garnered 32 percent.

Proposition 102 (to change state bail rules), Amendment 62 (granting fetuses “personhood”), Amendment 63 (to nullify health-care form), Referendum P (to change regulation of bingo and raffles) and Referendum R (to exempt some possessory interests from taxation) all failed.

The only ballot question that passed was Amendment Q, to allow for a provisional site to be the seat of state government in an emergency.

The only state question that was favored locally was Amendment 63.

Two local questions – to let the county commissioners serve three terms, and to exempt the Montezuma County Hospital District from TABOR revenue limits – both failed, by no votes of 70 percent and 55 percent, respectively.


Across the Colorado border in San Juan County, a Democrat scored a surprise victory in the sheriff’s race. Rick Eldredge, a Utah Highway Patrol officer, stopped Republican Mike Lacy from serving a fifth consecutive term, gleaning 60 percent of the vote.

Republican Phil Lyman, who ran unopposed, was chosen to replace Lynn Stevens on the San Juan County commission.

Statewide, ultra-conservative Republican Mike Lee, who had ousted 18-year incumbent Bob Bennett in the primary, glided to victory over Democrat Sam Granato in Utah’s Senate race.

Utah voters approved all four proposed amendments to the state’s constitution. Amendment A clarified which elections can be by secret ballot. Amendment B established new residency requirements for anyone appointed to office in the state legislature. C allowed tax exemptions for certain property owners if the land is used to irrigate land, provide domestic water or provide water to a public water supplier. D created a legislative ethics commission.


The state’s citizenry passed Proposition 106, an anti-health-care-reform measure that would amend the state constitution to bar requirements that would force state residents to participate in a health care plan. The amendment is considered largely symbolic, as state laws cannot trump federal measures.

Voters also narrowly defeated Proposition 203, which would have legalized medical marijuana. The question failed by a 50.5- 49.5 percent margin.

New Mexico

In a race that featured two women and some of the nastiest campaign ads anywhere, Republican Susana Martinez topped Lt. Gov. Diane Denish 54 to 46 percent to become New Mexico’s first female governor and the first Hispanic woman to be a state chief executive. Incumbent Gov. Bill Richardson was term-limited.

Navajo Nation

Ignoring criminal charges against him, Navajos selected tribal Vice President Ben Shelly over New Mexico Sen. Lynda Lovejoy as their next president. Shelly garnered 50.3 percent.

Shelly and his running mate, Rex Lee Jim, face charges of conspiracy, fraud and theft in complaints involving tribal discretionary funds. Shelly has denied the charges and said he took money from the discretionary fund for a general family emergency.

Incumbent President Joe Shirley Jr. was term-limited.

Lovejoy remains a state senator.

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From Election, November 2010.