Unaffiliated voters in Routt County could transform primary election | SteamboatToday.com

Unaffiliated voters in Routt County could transform primary election

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The participation of Routt County’s 6,668 unaffiliated voters may turn out to be the most interesting facet of the June 26 primary election locally, with a ballot that features few contested races here.

Former State Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, D-Steamboat Springs, is seeking the opportunity to challenge incumbent Republican U.S. Congressman Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District in the general election this fall.

But first, she’ll have to win her primary race against fellow Democrats Karl Hanlon and Arn Menconi. And it’s a new game in the 2018 primary, since statewide voters passed Proposition 108 in 2016.

It has been many years since there was a contested Democratic primary race in the sprawling district that comprises 29 counties, Mitsch Bush said. And there really isn’t a manual on how to attract unaffiliated voters in the primary race.

“It’s great that unaffiliated people can weigh in,” Mitsch Bush said. “And they’re very significant in the district as a whole. Everyone is scratching their heads about the best techniques for getting unaffiliateds out. We have a field strategy, but it’s trial and error.”

Deputy Routt County Clerk Tina Fry said the bulk of the primary ballots were mailed June 5. The County Clerk’s Office stresses that unaffiliated voters have to make a choice. They will receive both Republican and Democratic ballots, but they can only fill out one. Fry said that neither ballot will be counted if unaffiliated voters complete and return both.

According to the office of Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, unaffiliated voters represent the largest voting block in Routt County.

Proposition 108 holds the promise of transforming Colorado’s primary races. Before its passage, unaffiliated voters had to affiliate with one of the parties if they wanted to take part in the primary election. If they wanted to return to their unaffiliated status for the general election in the fall, they had to change status again. Not any longer.

There are no contested primary races for elective offices in Routt County this election cycle, and there are few races shaping up in the fall.

Republican Lane Iacovetto is unchallenged for country treasurer, and Republican incumbents County Assessor Gary Peterson, Sheriff Garrett Wiggins and Coroner Rob Ryg are also running unopposed. The same applies to Democrat County Clerk and Recorder Kim Bonner.

Republican County Commissioner Cari Hermacinski will face a challenge in the fall from Democrat Beth Melton and write-in candidate Chuck McConnell.

Crowded gubernatorial race

The statewide results of the 2018 primary will have a profound influence on a wide-open gubernatorial race.

Unaffiliated voters across the state will have an interesting decision to make over which gubernatorial race to engage in. Gov. John Hickenlooper is term limited, and both parties have a primary slate of four candidates  seeking to replace him.

The Republican candidates for governor include Walker Stapleton, Greg Lopez, Doug Robinson and Victor Mitchell. The Democratic field includes Cary Kennedy, Jared Polis, Donna Lynne and Mike Johnston.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1.

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