El Paso County voters returned nearly all incumbents to their positions, voted to remove extra terms for commissioners and gave both the sheriff and the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority the tax money they asked for in years to come. They also gave the county two Democratic members of the state House, with Pete Lee winning a second term in District 18 and Tony Exum Sr. knocking off Republican incumbent Mark Barker in District 17.
Local voters returned Doug Lamborn to Washington as the representative for the Fifth Congressional District. They also re-elected Sallie Clark, Dennis Hisey and Amy Lathen to the El Paso County Board of Commissioners, but returned term limits to two consecutive terms. A poorly worded ballot initiative two years ago extended commissioners’ limits to three terms.
Asked whether the reelected Clark and Hisey should bow to the expressed will of the voters and resign, rather than serving a third term, County Commissioner Peggy Littleton was noncommittal.
“That’s a very interesting question,” she said.
PPRTA passed resoundingly, and Sheriff Terry Maketa’s request for a sales-tax increase to help his operation also sailed to victory.
El Paso County stayed mostly true to its Republican heritage during Tuesday’s election, giving more than 60 percent of the vote to presidential candidate Mitt Romney and 39 percent to Barack Obama. But that was virtually the same as Obama’s showing here in 2008, and more than his campaign projected that he needed from El Paso County in order to carry Colorado.
Exum took a strong early lead and held it over Barker, as Lee did over challenger Jennifer George.
Mark Waller had 74 percent of the vote for state representative in District 15 and Dan Nordberg took 78 percent of the vote in state House District 14. Owen Hill, a Republican, was far ahead with 75 percent of the vote for state Senate District 10 in early returns. Republican Bill Cadman had 70 percent of the vote in state Senate District 12.
Community activist Phil Lane was philosophical about George’s apparent defeat.
“She ran a great campaign,” he said, “but it’s a very tough district for a Republican. And when you have hundreds of thousands in outside money being spent on your opponent’s behalf, it’s even more difficult.”
Lee (and Exum) supporter Karen Teja was ready to claim victory.
“We’ll take the (State House of Representatives) back,” she said, meaning Democrats regaining control of the House as well as the Senate, which appeared likely in early returns..
The Democratic strategy in El Paso County was simple, she said. The party concentrated all its efforts and all its financial resources on the two races that seemed winnable. The party didn’t bother to contest overwhelmingly Republican districts in the remainder of the county.
Amy Stephens carried 83 percent of District 19 for state representative and Bob Gardner fought off challenge Michael Goldsborough to retain his District 20 seat. Republican Lois Landgraf won 67 percent of the vote in early returns for state representative District 21.
But people in El Paso County were split on the issue of legalizing marijuana and regulating it like alcohol. In early returns, 52 percent said no to legalization while 48 percent were in favor. However, the state’s voters approved Amendment 64.
– Amy Gillentine also contributed to this story.