Let this be a reminder that there is a primary election on Tuesday.
We're not going to waste time urging Democrats to participate -- there are no contested races on the party's ballot. But the same can't be said of the Republican ballot. Republicans will choose between two candidates -- Garrett Wiggins and Ray Birch -- to be the party's nominee for the top law enforcement post in Routt County. The winner will face Democrat Gary Wall in the November general election to become the county's next sheriff.
Historically, turnouts for primary elections are low -- 15 percent or less, said Routt County Clerk and Recorder Kay Weinland. We hope that isn't the case this time around. This is an important decision -- given the Republican Party's dominance of county-level races, the winner of the primary will be the early favorite to be the next sheriff. It shouldn't be left to a fraction of Republicans to make that choice.
Birch is a Routt County Sheriff's deputy. Wiggins is a Steamboat Springs police officer. Both have solid law enforcement backgrounds and both have handled the primary campaigns professionally.
While this particular election certainly is about the two candidates running, it also is about the current sheriff, John Warner. Warner chose not to seek a third term in office. But that doesn't mean he is sitting out the campaign.
Warner, also a Republican, has endorsed and actively supported Birch. He has gone so far as to say were Wiggins to win, he isn't sure that he could support his party's nominee. That's because Wiggins has criticized Warner's administration, particularly the department's high employee turnover rate and what he called management by intimidation. Birch has said he wants to strengthen the sheriff's office's connections with the community, update policies and improve customer service, but he has not criticized the current administration directly.
Warner is the biggest name in this race. Wiggins and Birch are largely unknown, but Warner's decision to back one over the other gives Republicans -- those who support the current sheriff as well as those who don't -- a compass to use in making their choice.
Tuesday's primary is open to anyone who is registered as a Republican or is unaffiliated and willing to register as a Republican on election day. The deadline to switch affiliations for those already registered with another party was July 10.
The sheriff's election is perhaps the biggest local race on the ballot this year. We believe the community is always better served when as much of the voting populace as possible helps make such decisions. If you are a Republican or an unaffiliated voter, don't skip this opportunity to cast your vote.