Term-limit controversy ends, yet incumbents win

Filed under: Politics,Print | Tags:, , ,

Local races provided plenty of surprises on Tuesday, but not at Centennial Hall, as three incumbent Republican county commissioners were easily re-elected.

In District 2, Amy Lathen defeated a Green Party candidate by nearly a 4-to-1 margin, garnering 37,707 votes to her opponent’s 10,708. In District 4, Dennis Hisey’s win over Democrat Doskor Hanchett was narrower, but still decisive at 17,593 to 12,951. And in a District 3 race that had been projected by some to be much closer, Sallie Clark prevailed over Democrat John Morris, 34,276 to 25,557.

Hisey and Clark won third terms, yet at the same time El Paso County voters finally settled the term-limits controversy, reinstalling a two-term limit by the convincing margin of 161,006 to 90,369. The new limits were not retroactive, so current commissioners weren’t affected.

In his campaign against Clark, Morris stressed the term-limits confusion from 2010 as well as the existing board’s partisan bias, noting that no Democrat had served on the body since 1975. Voters were unpersuaded, even in Clark’s relatively moderate district. For her part, Clark distanced herself from partisanship, noting that she had served on the nonpartisan City Council in the past, and emphasizing her work on behalf of the district and its residents.

Clark’s yard signs blanketed the district, easily outnumbering those for Morris. But Morris and his backers could take solace in knowing that voters struck down the three-term limits as passed in 2010 with confusing language.

The election assures that the present 3-2 split on the board is likely to continue indefinitely. Commissioners Darryl Glenn and Peggy Littleton, both of whom strongly opposed exempting Clark and Hisey from the two-term limit, won’t gain any traction. Lathen, Clark and Hisey usually vote together, and have rotated leadership positions in past years. Currently, Lathen chairs the commissioners and Clark is vice-chair.

This pattern is not unusual. Before the current group, Commissioners Clark and Hisey joined with Jim Bensberg to freeze out Douglas Bruce and Wayne Williams, neither of whom ever served as chair or vice chair.