Following one of the worst economic recessions in American history, election campaigns in 2012 leading up to Nov. 6 were sharply divisive and full of political vitriol. From the presidential race between President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney to state legislative races to local county races, the political divide in the U.S. was painfully sharp in 2012.
Here in the communities of the Western San Juans from deep blue San Miguel County to equally bright red Montrose County and purple Ouray County, the political divide was no different. Especially since Colorado was deemed to be one of a handful of swing states that would decide the presidential race, bringing the presidential candidates to the Western Slope on several occasions, the 2012 election, from primaries through the general election, was the story The Watch covered the most over the past year and is the #1 story of 2012.
Republicans hoped to bring conservative change to the White House with presidential candidate hopefuls such as Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Michele Bachman, and Romney leading the charge.
Just days before the Colorado’s GOP caucuses, Santorum made a strong push to win the state and stumped in Montrose to tell voters that he was candidate best fit to contrast with President Obama’s policies in November.
“This is the most important election of your lifetime,” Santorum said. “People say this president is radical. You have no idea how radical this president is.”
While Santorum’s push may have worked in Colorado (overall, the state chose Santorum in its presidential preference poll by 40.24 percent; Romney followed with 34.90 percent of the vote) Romney eventually became the GOP nomination to run against Obama after a long fought Republican primary.
As the Nov.6 election drew near, Colorado remained in the political spotlight. Both Romney and Obama stumped on the Western Slope and vice presidential hopeful Paul Ryan made a stop in Montrose at the Black Canyon Jet Center days before the election.
On the Western Slope, it was no surprise that Montrose County remained a Republican stronghold and voted overwhelmingly in favor of Romney. The same can be said for San Miguel County, on the opposite end of the political spectrum, which remained deeply blue as residents there overwhelmingly supported Obama. In the middle of these two counties was Ouray County, which was has emerged as a swing county in a swing state. By a narrow margin, residents in Ouray County supported Obama’s re-election.
No Change for Montrose BOCC
Following a failed attempt to recall Montrose commissioners David White and Ron Henderson in 2011, their political opponents hoped the 2012 election would be the time to bring change as they ran for reelection.
That hope strengthened when Henderson and White found themselves in closely contested primary races against Ed Ulibarri and Jim Haugsness, respectively. In the June 23 primary election, Henderson and White narrowly fought back their challengers with margins of victory less than 100 votes each.
Democratic candidate Kjersten Davis and independent candidate Juli Messenger hoped the narrow primary victories of Henderson and White meant they had a chance at taking their seats in November.
Despite their call for change, little change for Montrose County actually occurred and both Henderson and White were easily elected to second terms.
Little Change for Ouray BOCC
The 2012 election campaign in Ouray County started off with an interesting twist when term-limited Republican Commissioner Heidi Albritton resigned from office in August just after she changed her political affiliation to Independent. Her term is up at the end of 2012.
Following her resignation, Gov. John Hickenlooper appointed Pat Willits, an Independent, to fill her seat to the end of Albritton’s term.
Willits found himself pitted against a seasoned political veteran Republican Don Bachelder in the November election while Democratic incumbent Lynn Padgett fought of a challenge from Republican candidate Jack Flowers.
Padgett was able to keep her seat and Bachelder, who has been a commissioner before, was elected.
Keeping true to its purple character, the Ouray Board of County Commissioners is the only county of the three in the region to be politically divided with two Republicans and one Democrat holding seats.
No Change for San Miguel BOCC
In San Miguel County, where there are no term limits, incumbent candidates Art Goodtimes (Green) and Elaine Fischer (Democrat) once again were able to hold off challenges.
In a county that is overwhelmingly liberal, Fischer handily beat Republican challenger Steve Kennedy.
The three-way race that pitted Goodtimes against Democratic challenger Dan Chancellor and Republican Kevin Kell was more interesting. Opponents siding with Chancellor sought to unseat Goodtimes by characterizing him as less than a true environmentalist and pro nuclear energy. The tactic had little effect, and Goodtimes and Fischer were both re-elected.