By Valerie Maez
In the political world, the great unknown are a group of Americans called the unaffiliated active voter. They prefer not to swear allegiance to any one party, and these days, who can really blame them?
Here in Montezuma County they number around 7,300. Republicans that participate regularly also are a few more. Active Democrat voters are somewhere in the 3600 category. The really wild cards in the mix are the even less understood sometimes voters. So, for the political junkie, local elections are becoming a contest for the hearts and minds of an increasingly volatile voter turnout.
Both major political parties spend enormous sums on campaigns centered around one talking point. Our guy is better than your guy. The selling of candidates isn’t new territory, but the patience of the average voter, who are tired of being taken for granted, seems to be a growing demographic group. More than you might expect, they are not accepting the premise that a Party can put up candidates that once elected can turn a deaf ear to their constituents. Experienced political operatives are quick to say that shifting voter affiliation due to flawed candidates does not last long. When the party in power becomes untenable, voters come home to support whatever candidate the other party puts up, as there isn’t any viable alternative.
It is possible that voters are just plain fed up and those rules are changing a bit. Nothing is working the way it is supposed to. There was a meeting in late July at a local restaurant that was a harbinger of things to come on a local level. That saying of “all politics are local” became a rather surreal moment as factions within the party collided. It will ripple out as word spreads and loyalties shift in small town America. One of the owners of the restaurant launched an emotional assault on the assembled people, most of which bypassed food for the serious moment at hand. The frustration in her voice as she lashed the crowd with her words was surreal and more than just a little self serving. No longer would she hold the back of her restaurant for a monthly Republican meeting. No more bison burgers for us! It was quite the theatrical moment.
I listened as a member of the Party stood up and announced his disbelief at the consequences of such a contrived event, and that he was leaving the Republican party. He asked that his name be removed from membership as he walked out. The next day, I heard from over two dozen friends and neighbors who said they were going to change their longtime party affiliation. Their anger was justifiable. Most voters do not appreciate crap politics in their faces. On a local basis, they may or may not know the monthly events that define the issues occurring in their party. They have other issues that consume their time and attention, especially after such a wrenching year that has just occurred. This is now their clarion call to start paying closer attention. Good stewardship of who and what you believe in is no longer a casual sometime thought if you ever did think that way.
Last year, when I first met Lauren Boebert and interviewed her, I knew she would win Colorado’s Third Congressional District Republican Primary against Scott Tipton. I told her that, after the interview concluded, and we were parting company. That was in early February; months away from that fateful election that would turn her into a national rising star of the Republican Party. This year, I am watching various candidates for office run on a variation of Boebert’s clarion call for Freedom, as they try to replicate her success Lauren Boebert’s success is predicated on her ability to speak out on issues that resonate with voters as they struggle with events that seem incomprehensible.
Unchecked immigration at our borders, our constitutional rights being trampled on, a highly politicized public health issue, public schools that fail our families with socialist propaganda instead of education, mind blowing spending by our government with demands to spend even more, a state and national election that even growing numbers of Democrats are beginning to wonder about.
The escalating rift between local Republicans has its roots in two separate women’s groups that resulted in the group led by the longtime Montezuma County Republican Secretary, losing their Charter due to a failure to be anything much more than a lunch bunch. That is in contrast to the current Chartered Republican Women’s group that serves up coffee and active outreach Monday through Saturday at 40 East Main Street in Cortez and is making inroads on voter awareness of issues that are important to them. That rift was further exacerbated by a faction within the Party that feels so entitled to ignore Bylaws they freely admit it, and who vigorously opposed an independent audit of the finances.
At this point, it should be obvious that registered Republican voters of Montezuma County need to ask themselves, what do they want to stand for? Entrenched policies that practice the status quo of exclusion and meetings limited to insiders or a policy of positive growth by inclusion of the increased presence of non voting members at meetings? There are real risks associated with inclusion, but there is the possible reward of a broader consensus that can bring real solutions to real problems. The great unknown. I would rather take a chance on including a possible constitutional leaning unaffiliated than known Democrats posing as Republicans. It’s no secret that Montezuma County leans conservative, so if you want to get into an elective position here you put an R behind your name and hope you don’t get outed.
Democrats are said to be united, with no inside party squabbling. Perhaps that’s true of the elite leadership, but I actually know a few sane Democrats, so I am not buying into that meme. They too, are worried. Mostly they worry about the increasingly leftward tilt of their party. Yep. That’s a problem, alright.
The City of Cortez, with their 2020 Vision Plan, has created more problems and brought more division into what once was a fairly cohesive electorate than it has solved. Cortez has become a mecca for individuals looking to live well off subsidies. Beggars, who look capable, fill street corners around Walmart and City Market. Despite years of social programs, the problem is increasing.
Karen Sheek’s tenure as Mayor saw an embezzlement scandal, and a failed land use update that resulted in City Hall being packed with citizens expressing their disapproval of her management of the town. Sheek seems to belong to a class of politicians that believes its citizens are best treated like mushrooms; kept in the dark and fed crap. Her column in the August issue of The Four Corners Free Press was a good example of that. In that column, Ms. Sheek took exception to my July column that detailed RE-1 Cortez School Board's process of selecting the new Superintendent. In that rebuttal, Ms. Sheek implied that she did not usurp the Chair of the Community Stakeholders group position. It should have been Tina King Washington submitting the choice, not your submission, Ms. Sheek. You further implied that my information came from my husband, a member of that Committee. I attended the public meet and greet of all three Superintendent candidates and conversed with Tina about the candidates, and was aware of her opinion. As to your statement that you favored the candidate from California. That was before there was a whisper campaign that 2 of the 3 candidates had flaws that should eliminate them from consideration, leaving the preferred choice of a teacher whose husband sits on the School Board.
The entire point of my article was that the process was manipulated by the school hierarchy. I think it is pretty obvious, and given your public record of support for a bureaucracy’s position unless confronted with simply no choice; that your unverifiable statement in this matter is somewhat suspect. The impression you left some with that evening was that new information had changed your position. Saying that you submitted the candidate from California as your selection, seems disingenuous at best, and self serving at its worst. This was not an attack on Ms. Sheek, although I suspect she thought it was. It is a commentary on the endemic problem of how some individuals, once in a position of power, seek to control rather than govern.
In September, Colorado’s Republican Party’s Central Committee will conduct a vote on whether or not to close their primary to the unaffiliated voter. Limiting the process of candidate nomination to registered Republican voters who participate in the Caucus is generating a conversation of pros and cons. Some feel that by limiting participation to registered Republicans, many conservative leaning unaffiliated voters will change to Republican.
Perhaps, perhaps not.