How do you run for county commissioner?

Routt County Commissioner Beth Melton’s announcement Tuesday, Jan. 25, that she won’t seek reelection sets up an incumbent free race in November for the District 3 seat.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today archive

Commissioner Beth Melton had always expected to serve several terms on the three-person board at the helm of Routt County government. However, Melton announced Tuesday, Jan. 25, she would not seek a second term in November.

“It’s just not where me and my family want to be right now,” Melton said. “I don’t really have something else that’s waiting in the wings. I have a year to figure out what comes next.”

The incumbent-less field of candidates for Melton’s District 3 seat is expected to grow in the coming weeks. Candidates must live within the district, which is entirely within the city limits of Steamboat Springs, but the whole county votes for each commissioner.

Commissioners have generally stayed out of races that don’t specifically involve them, Melton said, preferring to let the election unfold on its own.

“It’s such a rewarding thing to do,” Melton said. “If there are issues that (potential candidates) are passionate about that the county is or could work on, I think it is a great way to do that work.”

While there is no one forcing a commissioner to be in the office 40 hours per week, Melton said previous commissioners, like the late Nancy Stahoviak, created a strong tradition of dedication to the work. She encouraged potential candidates to view it as a full-time job.

How to run for commissioner …

To run for county commissioner, candidates must be at least 18 years old, registered to vote and a resident in the commissioner district for at least one year before the election.

There are a few ways on to the ballot depending on if a candidate is representing one of the two major political parties or not. If running unaffiliated, someone would need to petition on to the general election ballot.

Routt County Clerk and Recorder Jenny Thomas said if looking to get on the ballot via petition, candidates should contact her office about the required number of signatures, which is based on previous election vote totals.

… as a Democrat

Routt County Democrats Chair Catherine Carson said that the local party supports all Democrats that want to run for the party’s commissioner nomination equally.

Colorado Democratic Party rules state interested candidates in county races need to send the local party chair a letter of intent 30 days before the assembly, though exceptions can be made at assembly. The assembly and caucus will be held virtually March 5.

This year, any caucus delegate will be allowed to be an assembly delegate, as well. To participate, people need to be affiliated with the Democratic Party 22 days before the caucus, which this year is Feb. 11.

If a candidate gets 30% of more of delegate votes, they are placed on the primary ballot. If they get less than 30% but more than 10%, Carson said they can petition onto the primary ballot with a March 15 deadline. If a candidate fails to get 10% at assembly, they cannon petition onto the party primary ballot or the general election ballot, Thomas said.

Carson encouraged anyone interested to reach out to her directly at 970-870-2896 or

… as a Republican

Routt County Republicans Chair Pete Wood said their process is a little different, with him and other local party leaders working to vet candidates.

Wood said they would want to learn what level of experience a potential candidate might have and get an understanding of why they to want to run for commissioner.

“Really focusing on the qualifications and, really, their energy and ruggedness, durability to withstand public office,” Wood said.

Generally, there wouldn’t be a caucus or assembly process for county-level races, Wood said. If there is one candidate, the party would throw their support behind them. If there were more than one candidate, Wood said they may do a caucus but would assess the need for that if multiple candidates surfaced.

Wood encouraged anyone interested to reach out to him directly at 619-200-1479.

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