Gloves Coming Off In County Elections

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Photos by CR Chambers

Former Foe Of Sheriff Incumbent Enters The Ring 

By Rick Langenberg:


A snoozer of a county election season has suddenly received a jolt, with the prospects of heavily contested races for the positions of sheriff and assessor. In fact, according to some estimates, the gloves will be coming off with the possibility of two political foes gearing up for a heated rematch in November.

Last week, Mark Manriquez of Divide, who unsuccessfully challenged Sheriff Mike Ensminger four years ago in the Republican primary, officially entered the contest.

Only this time, Manriquez, who works as an investigator for the Colorado Division of Gaming, is vying for the job as an unaffiliated candidate. He has between May 1 and July 10 to obtain 145 autographs from registered voters who reside in the county. Potential signers must be registered voters, but they can be Democrats, Republicans or Independents. “We are ready to go,” said Manriquez, who said he plans to submit at least 500 autographs.

In addition, sheriff challenger Danny “DJ” Riley of Florissant recently turned in 816 signatures from voters in his bid to gain a spot on the Republican primary ballot. And incumbent assessor Betty Clark-Wine, in one of the more remarkable petition efforts, submitted 935 signatures, according to clerk and recorder officials. Clark-Wine’s autographs were obtained within a two-week period, following the county assembly in which she failed to obtain a sufficient amount of delegate tallies to get on the primary ballot.

According to the preliminary counts, tabulated by the clerk’s office, Riley fell short of the valid petition threshold, while Clark-Wine succeeded in getting a spot on the ballot. The county clerk and recorder’s office reviewed the signatures to assure that the signers were registered Republicans in the county, and that the names and addresses match those of the county records. In addition, Eriah Speight, took out petitions for sheriff, but failed to submit them with the appropriate signatures.

Even with the preliminary counts, Riley isn’t throwing in the towel. He plans to continue his campaign, and will run as a write-in candidate in the Republican primary. “I am doing this for the people of Teller County,” said Riley. “They deserve a good sheriff.” The clerk’ s office rejected about 255 of his petition signatures, a verdict that squashed his chances of surpassing the 746 minimum autograph hurdle.

IMG_0162Clark-Wine, meanwhile, was extremely happy with her petition effort, resulting in few signatures getting discarded. She was informed late last week that 873 autographs on her candidate petitions had been accepted, well above the 728 minimum threshold. She signed paper work on Monday, securing her spot on the primary ballot.

A rematch is looming

However, the big election surprise last week came with the announcement of Manriquez’ candidacy. Four years ago, Manriquez and Ensminger engaged in a bitter battle, as the background of both candidates came under heavy scrutiny. A routine candidates’ forum, run by the Woodland Park Chamber of Commerce, turned into a verbal slug match. “I want to give people a choice,” said Manriquez, in an interview last week, when he announced his candidacy to the media and on social media. If he gets enough signatures, Manriquez will face off with the GOP primary winner in November. “The issues are still the same,” said the sheriff candidate. Similar to statements made by Riley, he is worried about the large number of lawsuits being filed against the agency and the department’s high turnover rate.1970662_10201778422688100_432522412_n

However, contrary to his campaign of four years ago, Manriquez plans to take a more pro-community approach and emphasize his ties to the area. Manriquez has served as the head football coach of the Woodland Park Middle School for the last several years. He also serves on the board of directors for the Teller Safe Harbor , a non-profit group that assists victims of domestic violence. In addition, he is involved with the American Legion group and his family has hosted foreign exchange students. Manriquez, a Navy veteran, is married to Jennifer and has six children.

The sheriff candidate believes he is more well-known in the community than he was four years ago. Although Manriquez lost the sheriff’s race in the GOP primary in 2010 by a wide margin, he contends that he made an impact.IMG_0020 “What I told my supporters was that we lost the election, but we won (by getting on the ballot). We made case law.” Manriquez was referring to the contested court battle that ensued, after the Teller clerk’s office discarded many of the signatures he collected and blocked his chances of getting on the ballot. A district judge overruled the clerk’s decision, following a hearing in Colorado Springs , and Manriquez’ name was placed on the GOP primary ballot.

As for key issues, he plans to concentrate on his detailed experience as a law officer and supervisor in California for 35 years, mostly with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office, along with ways to improve the agency. “It’s going to be a tough fix,” said Manriquez, in describing a plan to revive the agency, with the loss of so many veteran officers.

He wants to emphasize more family-oriented issues, youth programs, regional training among local agencies, enhanced neighborhood patrols and ways to reduce the legal liabilities for the department.

Manriquez says he decided to enter the race after receiving an incredible amount of pleas from local residents. “I have been absolutely inundated with e-mails, phone calls and requests over the last few weeks,” said the sheriff candidate. “I had people came up to me at places like Wal-Mart, who I never knew, and asking me to please run again. It was a tough decision I had to talk it over a lot with my family. But I will be 57-years-old and this will be my last run.”

For more information about his campaign, Manriquez can be reached at 719-322-1284 or 719-748-3542 or through his Facebook page.

In any case, the tone of the sheriff’s race will drastically change.
Prior to this week, it appeared Ensminger wouldn’t face any opponents. The sheriff has received strong support from many county leaders, and got a standing ovation during the GOP county assembly several weeks ago. Already, the sheriff has a re-election committee in place, comprised of many community leaders.

Ensminger is standing behind his record during his first term. Moreover, he cites the ways the agency has opened its doors to the public and has strongly supported the Second Amendment rights of citizens, along with making the jail into a successful fiscal operation and working with emergency service groups (a forthcoming profile of Ensminger will appear soon in TMJ).

The assessor’s race also could get heated with the much anticipated showdown between Clark-Wine and challenger Violett Watt, the undisputed winner of the Teller Republican County Assembly.

Watt, a third-generation native and former veteran of the county assessor’s office, delivered a knock-out punch during the GOP assembly, receiving nearly 80 percent of the delegate vote. In her nomination speech, she was extremely critical of Clark-Wine’s running of the assessor’s office, with so many departures of key employees. She received an enthusiastic applause from many county employees, when she spoke at the Teller assembly.

With this vote, most political insiders depicted this as the death-seal for Clark-Wine’s candidacy. But the incumbent mounted a big petition drive in the last two weeks, under the theme, “Get the Facts.” Clark-Wine contends that she has made the agency much more transparent and has represented local taxpayers and property owners much better than previous administrations. (photos by CR Chambers)