Democrats sweep Summit County commissioner races
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with comments from the candidates.
KEYSTONE — Voters elected three Democrats to the Summit Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday, Nov. 3.
In District 1, incumbent Democrat Elisabeth Lawrence beat Republican Allen Bacher with 66.4% of the vote. In District 2, Democrat Tamara Pogue beat Republican Daryl Bohall with 65.1% of the vote. In District 3, Democrat Josh Blanchard beat unaffiliated candidate Erin Young and independent candidate Bruce Butler with 54.9% of the vote.
Current commissioners Thomas Davidson and Karn Stiegelmeier are term-limited, meaning neither will be on the board for the first time in 14 years.
District 1: Elisabeth Lawrence
Although Lawrence has been serving as Summit County’s District 1 commissioner for nearly two years, Tuesday night was the first time she was elected to the position.
Lawrence was first appointed commissioner in January 2019, after Dan Gibbs left the position to become the executive director of the state’s Department of Natural Resources.
“I’m feeling really grateful right now, relieved and honestly excited,” Lawrence said. “I’m ready to get to work.”
Lawrence’s time as commissioner is not her first experience with public office. She previously served on Town Council in Breckenridge. Before her time on council, she worked as the director of community relations for The Summit Foundation.
Since becoming commissioner, Lawrence has had her hand in nearly every aspect of county government. However, most people might recognize her from her presence during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Lawrence took the lead role on the board in being a voice to the community on all things COVID-19. Going forward, Lawrence has said she will prioritize guiding the county through the pandemic by fostering relationships with ski area leaders and working closely with public health.
“Our economy is on the line here in Summit County, and that really has to be our first attention: How do we balance our public health and economy at the same time?” she said.
In many ways, Lawrence could not be more different than her opponent, Bacher, who calls himself a “capitalist … conservative, constitutional, libertarian-leaning veteran.”
The part-time economic professor at Colorado Mountain College focused much of his campaign on ending government-mandated shutdowns due to the virus and decreasing the role of county government in the lives of residents.
District 2: Tamara Pogue
Although this will be her first time holding public office, Democrat Tamara Pogue is no stranger to Summit County.
Pogue is the former executive director of the Family & Intercultural Resource Center and current executive director of Peak Health Alliance.
“I believe strongly that my job as commissioner is to be a voice of Summit County and for Summit County,” she said. “The confidence expressed in me on behalf of Summit County this evening is overwhelming.”
Much like Lawrence, Pogue will be prioritizing the county’s response to the pandemic when she is sworn in Jan. 12.
Pogue also plans to direct her attention toward making county government more accessible, allocating resources for environmental sustainability and focusing on improving behavioral health in the community.
“Everyone in our community deserves a chance to contribute and a voice,” Pogue said. “I’m most excited about listening to all those voices and finding ways that we weave everyone’s opinion back together.”
While Pogue has many plans for the position, her opponent, Bohall, took the stance that he would make no promises until he knew the full impact of the pandemic on the county budget.
Bohall, who owns DRB Distributing in Frisco, was generally against mandates for the coronavirus that led to many businesses shutting their doors in March.
Bohall said he hopes the new board of commissioners will prioritize avoiding taxing citizens and “more efficiently and more effectively make Summit County government better for the people.”
District 3: Josh Blanchard
Up against two opponents for the District 3 seat, Blanchard had the most competitive race Tuesday night.
“I’m grateful for the generous support from so many of the folks who supported the campaign, reached out with tough questions on important issues, offered words of encouragement (and) offered advice,” he said.
Blanchard runs The Lake Dillon Theatre Co. alongside his husband, Chris Alleman, a current member of the Summit School District Board of Education.
Blanchard’s plans for the commissioner seat align closely with Pogue and Lawrence.
Aside from moving the county through the pandemic, Blanchard’s primary focus will be supporting working families through economic stability and recovery.
“I will certainly address the economic challenges that Summit County is likely to be experiencing during the winter season,” he said. “Focusing on our health and public safety is going to be key.”
Unlike Pogue and Lawrence, Blanchard is also committed to fostering arts in the county. Blanchard has said he plans to use the arts to bolster tourism and the economy.
Blanchard’s opponents, Butler and Young, both ran without declaring a party.
Butler, the former Silverthorne mayor, said he believed the position should be nonpartisan. Of note, Butler was a registered Republican from 2000 to 2018, according to voting records.
“I’m very grateful for the support, and I think Summit County is a wonderful place,” Butler said. “I wish (Blanchard) the very best going forward.”
Some of Butler’s plans aligned with the Democratic candidates. If elected, he would have pushed for an economic advisory committee and more work on affordable housing.
“I hope (the commissioners) will prioritize doing whatever they can to keep this county open and working because another shutdown will be beyond devastating,” Butler said.
Young has been unaffiliated since 2002, according to voting records. Young’s focus was on helping business owners and workers survive the pandemic.
“For those who supported me, I really want to thank them for their belief that local politics is about the person,” Young said. “They supported an underdog in this.”
As the owner of Red Buffalo Coffee & Tea, Young said she saw first-hand how the pandemic was impacting real working people.
“I hope that (the commissioners) can reach out to the business community in a stronger way, both now with COVID and in the future, for economic diversity,” she said.
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