It has been literally decades since Elbert County Republican primaries didn't mark the end of an election season. Stick a fork in it - the Republicans won..again! Oh sure, there was always that period of time when the Democrat running for office would raise holy hell about the Republican party bosses officially going on record saying that they saw absolutely no reason to debate a Democratic candidate. This typically was for a very short period of time. Generally speaking, the numbers were such that our local G.O.P. had no interest in giving a platform to any idea that was not approved by the Republican Central Committee.
It is a sickening feeling that rests in the stomach of any hard working Democrat in a solidly red Elbert County to know the race is over the day after the Republicans have pared down their hopefuls during the summer months. Game, set and match, Elephants. The only way an Elbert County Republican could ever understand this overwhelming mental mindset of failure is to move to Boulder and run for anything. Oh, and be more qualified than your Democratic opponent. Ever feel that? Probably not.
It has and will continue to be a predominantly conservative majority here in Elbert for decades to come. The only thing that will change that fact is if, in our efforts to grow the county out of its agricultural roots, we turn it into a bedroom community of high density, low cost housing to house workers for the Denver metro area. And THAT is when the water will completely disappear and the local political landscape will begin to turn from red to blue. It is just a matter of time.
That said, an interesting thing happened on the way to the 2018 election in November. The State of Colorado gave Independent voters a voice that they have not had before. They got to vote in the primary election of one of the two dominant parties. And to say that the Independent voters took the opportunity to express their opinion does not do them justice. They did what no one, especially the local Republicans, thought was possible. They took the Sheriff's race away from the Elbert County Republicans Central Committee and allowed the underdog, Tim Norton, a comfortable win. Tim is a Republican, but many in the party found the result to be horrifying! The vaunted Elbert County Republican Machine failed to produce the predicted winner. Not only that, but Rick Pettitt, their choice for the EC Commissioner’s primary race, won by only a two vote margin.
This put the EC Republican Central Committee in a real funk. The party began to sense the new reality of Colorado allowing Independents to vote in the primary as Democrats or as Republicans. That is not the way the Republicans out here have had it for as long as anyone can remember. How do you control a huge block of people who are not rabid supporters? Who the hell are these people? And even if you have a Republican on the ticket, can you be sure, since they were not picked by the Central Committee, that they will do as they are told? And if they do as they are told, how will this be viewed by the Independents? Cue the spooky organ music... they don't know!!!
That brings us to today and the selection of a new sheriff for our county. The eight-year reign of a sheriff whose focus appeared to most as a revenue-generating squadron of leased interceptors with a penchant for stockpiling used military vehicles and weaponry comes to an end in November. Those who were on board with that model tried everything to get rid of term limits over the years but to no avail. In a last ditch attempt to get someone who was a disciple of the former sheriff and take Shayne Heap on as Under Sheriff, the Central Committee offered up Troy McCoy. That did not fly either, as the only thing Troy talked about was keeping the Feds from coming for your guns. The Independents weighed in and the Heap Dynasty came to a resounding halt. The old guard Republicans now find themselves trying to get their heads around giving support to someone who they had been working against in the primaries. They decided they had no choice, held their noses and headed forward.
But now the problems of never expecting to lose reared its big ugly head for the Elbert County Republicans. You see, Tim Norton ran against Troy with the slogan, "More Service, Less Politics." The G.O.P. in this county only does one thing... old cronyism politics. So they found themselves in the unenviable position of having to tell Tim that he has to tow their bright red political line.
And that, my friends, means that the Democrat in the race, Don Charobee, has an opening. Mr. Charobee has more experience and leadership skills in his bag than any candidate that has ever run for the office of Elbert County Sheriff.
Tim says he is pretty much apolitical and does not want to do politics. The Republican Party has almost no experience on how to win a close race because the primary was always the grand finale. So what do they do? They tell Tim no debates because after all, that is what has worked for over twenty years. Except nobody knows that much about Tim Norton, only that he was the one who opposed Troy McCoy and the continuation of the Heap Dynasty.
Don Charobee has an impeccable, lengthy service record to his country and has a tremendous amount of appeal to both Democrats and Independents. Oh, and remember the old guard conservatives who felt cheated because Tim Norton broke the mold? Now they are not sure that Don isn't a viable choice because of his service to his nation.
Fast forward to the present. There are actual Republicans who are crying foul because the Democratic candidate is showing up, answering questions and impressing people with his resume. How dare he look electable? One noted Republican woman complained recently that Don was being a distraction because he was passing out literature, shaking hands and wearing Democrat blue instead of just dressing in street clothes at the Elizabeth Farmer's Market! Really? That’s your complaint? Don isn’t playing fair for those reasons? If that’s all you’ve got...bring it on. Having run for commissioner as a Democrat, I can tell you, there are few Republicans without a red, white and blue outfit and they are no shrinking violets.
So in all likelihood, the numbers are still working in favor of the Republican, but the game has changed...slightly. Independents want competency over party purity and they demonstrated that in the primary. Don is extremely well-qualified and he is answering questions at every venue he attends. The Dems are not directing his campaign's every move. In fact, they are encouraging his intuition and leadership skills. It is a winning combination.
I still like both candidates although I was extremely disappointed that Tim refused to debate because it broke his main campaign promise: less politics. To win his primary was a big deal and it was due in large part to his standing up to the Central Committee. But now, that is no longer the case. Whether Tim or Don wins, we are in for lots of positive changes. It will be interesting to see if the Republicans learn how to deal with the Independents. If they don't, you may have some elected Democrats in office in the not too distant future here in Elbert County.
I think I hear a Bob Dylan song, do you?