Defending the individual voter

Filed under: Opinion,Print | Tags:, , ,

You won’t find endorsements for political candidates in the Colorado Springs Business Journal. That’s simply not how we operate.

We’ve been asked and encouraged to support certain individuals, but we make no exceptions. We might take a stand on ballot issues that affect the community as a whole, and obviously the local business scene, but not for political purposes.

With that said, we do feel compelled to comment about the biggest development that came out of the Republican county assembly last weekend.

The delegates at that biennial event, for all practical purposes, were able to decide who will become the next El Paso County sheriff, ostensibly until 2026. About 65 percent of the local GOP leaders chose to put Bill Elder on the November ballot as the Republican nominee for sheriff to replace the term-limited Terry Maketa.

The rules require that any candidate receive 30 percent of the votes at the county assembly in order to make the ballot for the Republican primary. That’s nothing new, but the timing has changed this year. In the past, if a candidate didn’t earn enough support at the county assembly, he or she still had plenty of time to petition onto the primary ballot.

The time has come to revise our process for primary elections.

But that was when the primary took place in August. Now it has moved back to June 24, but the party didn’t reschedule its county assembly to account for that. So when two other prominent (and popular) GOP sheriff candidates, Jim Reid and former Sheriff John Anderson, came up short of 30 percent at the county assembly, they suddenly had only two days to come up with 11,000 signatures in order to qualify for the primary.

Without any other Democratic or independent challengers, Elder appears to have just been swept into office. Reid or Anderson, who were thought to be formidable candidates, might decide to go the petition route as independents (there’s more time for that), but their odds would be slim.

For a position as important as sheriff, it’s bothersome to see only a tiny fraction of El Paso County’s voters effectively deciding this outcome. We’d feel much better if Elder, Reid and Anderson could have been on the primary ballot for June, allowing the 168,676 registered Republicans to observe and assess all three before making their choice.

We’ve learned positives and negatives on each of them, but they haven’t had sufficient time to explain themselves. And for the record, Maketa openly endorsed his predecessor, Anderson, while other prominent Republicans had come out publicly for Reid.

It looked to be an interesting race for the June primary. But not anymore.

You only have to remember the past two summers, with the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires, to realize how significant the sheriff can become when natural disasters strike. Likewise, let’s not forget how Maketa was able singlehandedly to push through a county-wide sales tax hike in 2012 solely to provide more funding for his operation.

What’s the answer? The time has come to revise our process for primary elections. If that means having the county assembly earlier, so be it. If it means making petitions the only route to the ballot for local races, why not? As it is now, party activists (on either side) have too much power.

We’d support any change that gives individual voters an equal chance to choose their elected leaders.

Simple as that.