Election Fever Strikes In Teller County

~ by Rick Langenberg ~

Election time has arrived in Teller County and across Colorado.

By the middle or end of this week, nearly 20,000 voters in Teller should receive their mail-in ballots for the big Nov. 5 election.  According to Teller County Clerk and Recorder Krystal Brown, ballots were scheduled to be mailed out, starting Monday, Oct. 14.

But don’t worry if you don’t receive a ballot right away, via the Postal Service, as they must go through a mailing center in Denver initially. Early voting kicked off Monday at the courthouse in Cripple Creek, with an addition outlet slated to open the following Monday (Oct. 21) at the Woodland Park Public Library.

Similar to past votes, Election 2019 is being handled through a mail ballot system. The deadline for returning ballots is Nov. 5 at 7 p.m.

At stake locally is a fairly contested municipal race in Cripple Creek; the outcome of five board seats for the Cripple Creek/Victor RE-1 School District, capped by the ouster vote for a veteran board president; and a series of local ballot propositions.

But on the state level, the results of a state proposition could play a big role in determining the fate of an additional form of betting for the Cripple Creek gaming community. And based on the barrage of signs displayed on the local landscape, much attention has focused on a state question that would end certain revenue restrictions imposed by the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.

Ballots were sent to all registered Teller voters, who will cast tallies on the two state questions. But the only contested votes for elected seats will occur in Cripple Creek and for the Cripple Creek/Victor RE-1 School District. The municipal election in Victor has been cancelled due to no contested races.


Local  Elections

The Cripple Creek municipal election has commanded much attention, as for the first time in recent years, term limits play a big role.

Mayor Bruce Brown, the head elected leader in Cripple Creek for  nearly 10 years, is out and can’t run again. Term limits also impact Ward Five leader Chris Hazlett, the current mayor pro tem.

As a result, a huge competition has ignited for the mayoral spot, with two well-known residents, Meghan Rozell and Milford Ashworth, bolting from the gates. Rozell was elected to the council two years ago and has been a big proponent of leading the city forward with new ideas and putting an end to what she refers to as previous closed-door practices. Rozell has been a vocal voice on the council, expressing much concern over maintaining a good working atmosphere at city hall, and establishing firm goals and expectations of department heads, and addressing the future challenges facing the city.

But Rozell faces stern competition from Ashworth, who served on the council for eight years, and clearly stands on his previous record as a council member. He has cited the importance of infrastructure, economic development and good fiscal department operations. Ashworth is also a big supporter of City Administrator Mark Campbell, and the current marketing direction.

For Ward Four, a competition has ensued between incumbent Tom Litherland, who once served as the former mayor, and has been involved with number of organizations, such as  the library board; and Nancy McDonald, a former member of the historic preservation commission.

Litherland also has maintained a vocal presence at council meetings, expressing concerns over the current spending for marketing and several other fiscal endeavors. McDonald says she is a big proponent of representing the residents of Cripple Creek better.

In the Ward Five contest, Charles Solomone, who has served as a co-founder of the Teller County Marksmanship and Self Defense group, and a current appointed member of the RE-1 School Board, will assume the seat currently held by Hazlett. He faces no competition.

For the RE-1 School District, voters will pick five board members in wide open races due to several key resignations. The most contested seat involves that of board president Tim Braun, who faces a recall ouster vote. Braun, along with two other former incumbents, was targeted by a large ouster campaign, which involved several court hearings and even a brief review by the state’s high court. The charges deal with allegations of violating state and local school policies, disrespecting community members and ignoring financial oversight. But Braun has labeled these allegations as completely false, and contends that his critics just want to get rid of him so they can hire their friends and family members into key positions. If Braun is recalled, voters have the option of picking the sole successor for his seat, long-time resident Mary Bielz.

But unlike past years, the contest for four other seats has generated much competition. For two at-large seats, candidates Tana Rice, William Arrick, Charles Solomone and Buck Hakes are vying for these positions.

For the District B seat, representing Victor, candidates Connie Dodrill and Barbara Manning square off. And for the District A seat, representing Cripple Creek, voters will choose between Randall Steward and Gari Lu Schwab.

This is probably the most candidates that have entered the district board races in recent years.

Local and State Ballot Issues

Voters will also decide a number of key ballot issues. In Cripple Creek, voters will decide on two related fiscal issues, 2A and 2B. These are fiscal trimming issues, allowing the city to post full ordinances, resolutions and expenses on their website and on Facebook, instead of having them published in a designated newspaper. Titles of the ordinances, though, would still be published in a newspaper. City officials says the proposed change would save the government thousands of dollars annually.

But in order to make this change, the majority of the voters must give the okay since Cripple Creek is a statutory town. On the downside, critics of the change may argue that the plan could create less transparency.

City voters also will address 2C, opening the door for professional sports betting at licensed casinos.

This question is byproduct of state Proposition DD, which permits sports betting at licensed casinos in the three gaming towns.  Under this plan, all sports bets, limited to $100 a wager, would be taxes at 10 percent. The measure, if passed, is expected to generate more than $11 million in tax revenue. The lion’s share of the projected revenue would go to address a state water plan.

On a statewide level, DD has sparked an active television campaign by proponents of the question. The main theme of the ads is that casinos would pay the taxes involved and that it would allow Coloradoans to partake in sports betting action, instead of having to go to Las Vegas and Nevada. The driving force behind sports betting was established by a Supreme Court decision in 2018, which did away with the previous prohibition barring this activity outside of Las Vegas and Nevada.

The sports betting measure also has gained much support locally. The Cripple Creek City Council recently passed a resolution, endorsing both DD and 2C. City political and business leaders see sports betting as creating extra excitement in the gaming town and generating more visitors and retail opportunities. It also is part of Cripple Creek’s overall goal of becoming more of a destination area.

In other ballot questions, voters will decide the fate of Proposition CC, which gets away from certain revenue restrictions imposed by the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (see related story). If it passes, the state would retain all excess revenue, which exceeds spending and growth projections, and this money would not be returned to taxpayers.

The measure, though, has encountered much opposition locally.r

For more information about the upcoming election, call 719-689-2951.