Steamboat Springs Candidate for the 56th House District Bill Haight of rural Steamboat Springs faces an uphill battle to encourage voters to come out for the Aug. 8 primary in his home county. But his opponent for the Republican nomination, Al White of Fraser, has the advantage of two contested races for the Republican nomination for county commissioner in Grand County.
Haight and White are facing off for the right to oppose north Routt County rancher Jay Fetcher in the Nov. 7 general election. Fetcher is unopposed on the Democratic side of the primary.
Routt County Clerk Kay Weinland said Monday she is anticipating low voter turnout for the primary in Routt County because the race between Haight and White is one of only two contested races in either the Democratic or Republican side of the ballot.
August primary elections are always a tough sell, with many families hitting the road for vacations before turning their thoughts to the school year.
"I'm fearful of a low turnout," Weinland said.
The only other contested race is for the Republican nomination for the State Board of Education.
White discredited the notion that the two commissioner contests in his home county give him an advantage over Haight in the primary.
"I'm going to make an effort on my own to turn out my voters," White said. "I don't see the (commissioner candidates) working that hard, and I'm not relying on them to turn out my voters. My assumption is Bill (Haight) is going to do the same."
Haight believes the effects of the other races will be noticed.
"The vote in both Eagle and Grand will be magnified because the commissioner candidates are working to get the vote out, and the parties are working to get the vote out," Haight said. "So there's a double whammy."
There's also a chance some voters will view the local primary as a popularity contest between candidates for Routt County commissioner in District 2. Candidates John S. Shaw, a Republican, and Doug Monger, a Democrat, will face off in the November election. Both have their names on the Aug. 8 ballot, but in opposite primaries. They are unopposed within their own parties. Incumbent Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak is also on the Republican ballot; she is unopposed in the primary and in the general election.
If the scarcity of contested races winds up hurting voter turnout in Routt County, it's not as likely to happen in neighboring Eagle and Grand counties, both among the four counties in the 56th Assembly District. In addition to Routt, Eagle and Grand counties, the 56th District includes Jackson County and two precincts in Garfield County near Carbondale.
In Grand County, there are two contested races for county commissioner, both in the Republican primary. Todd Bittner is running against Steven Oxley in District 1 and Robert F. Anderson is running against Edward "Ted" Way in District 2. There are also Democratic candidates for both commissioner districts, but no primary battles.
There is apt to be more interest in the primary in Eagle County, where the District 2 commissioner election features contests on both sides of the ballot. Among the Democrats, Stephen Richards and Arn M. Menconi are seeking the nomination. The Republican race features Steve Morris vs. Katherine Teressa Gazunis.
Haight feels the commissioner races in both Grand and Eagle counties will have a definite impact on the race. And he's concerned that some of his supporters in Routt County will underestimate the challenge he faces, just because he is so well known here, and may not come out to vote.
"Eagle County is going to be really important to the outcome of this race," Haight said. "I've got to get the vote out in Routt County, but I've got to get my name out in Eagle County. I'm going door to door in Eagle County."
White said he's encouraged by the response he's getting throughout the district, but he also feels both candidates are probably meeting many people who support them, but the people who don't support them aren't coming out to meet them.
"We both probably think we'll win by a unanimous margin," White quipped. "But that's not going to happen."
To reach Tom Ross call 871-4210, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org