by RICK LANGENBERG
One of the most competitive Teller GOP County Commissioner fields in recent years is getting extremely lean.
Ken Matthews, a former Woodland Park councilman and planning commissioner and a prime contender for the District Three competition, has fallen just short of the finish line due to apparent technical errors in filing the necessary petition signatures to snag a spot on the primary ballot. As a result, Norm Steen, a former National Guard brigadier general, will become the sole GOP candidate on the June 26 ballot. And pending any last-minute entries from unaffiliated candidates or write-ins, he will assume the seat of Republican Jim Ignatius next January. No Democrats have entered the race.
According to GOP and county officials, Matthews failed to secure enough valid autographs from registered Republican voters in the District Three district. Unlike former competitors Steen and Bill Miller, he decided last February to pursue the petition route. But his candidacy hit a huge unexpected bump when a large number of signatures were tossed out due to the wrong date by a notary on one petition and erroneous addresses on another submittal. In fact, Matthews was within 40 signatures of garnering a spot on the ballot and challenging Steen in the forthcoming primary. According to sources, Republican insiders were quite optimisitic that he would qualify for a ballot spot. Miller, a former public information officer for El Paso County, already got knocked out during the Teller Republican Assembly on March 10, when he only received 27 delegate tallies–three short of the minimum amount necessary to qualify for a ballot spot.
The failure of Matthews to obtain enough petition signatures demonstrates the difficulties associated with pursuing this route. Two years ago, a huge brouhaha occurred when former Teller sheriff candidate Mark Manriquez tried to secure a spot on the primary ballot through garnering Republican autographs. Like Matthews, Manriquez had a large number of signatures thrown out by clerk officials, but he successfully appealed this ruling in court. However, Manriquez lost in the primary election to Mike Ensminger by a large margin.
In the other contested commissioner race, the stage is still set for a showdown between Marc Dettenrieder and Brian Walker for the District One seat. At one time, as many as six Republican contenders were in the races for the county commissioner seats.