May and Felicelli concur on the vast number of issues facing the county today. Concerns over environmental issues, the fate of the Valley Floor, oil and gas leasing, water storage in Norwood, growth and sustainable practices seem to be of equal import to both candidates.
Likewise, both candidates are able to point to a laundry list of accomplishments and public service, including having worked together on the San Miguel Democratic Committee and on a lawsuit against the Town of Mountain Village over voting rights.
The differences of opinion between the two lie more in the details than in the broad strokes.
When asked for their top three priorities for the county, both manage to come up with answers that encompass a greater number of issues. With sub-lists filtered out, May cites preservation of community, upcoming environmental challenges and planning for the future as her priorities, while Felicelli states "green" programs, land dedication or acquisition and helping with Norwood's water problems would be his focus if elected. Under each of their lists, the candidates manage to include the ever-present need for affordable housing and a host of public facilities.
Interestingly, both candidates seem to assess their opponent's qualities and their own similarly, and appear to find them to their advantage. Felicelli says his broad vision for the county is what positively differentiates him from his opponent, while May states that her focus on specific plans, such as "house size limitations and looking into opening an office of resource efficiency," is a reason to vote for her.
"I'm already working on many of the issues facing the county," May says. "Rube says he supports the Valley Floor, alternative energy, protection from gas exploration and protection of species, but I can point to a list of things I'm already doing on these fronts."
May also questions whether the county residents want to see Felicelli's record of "Mountain Village-like" decisions made at the county level.
On the contrary, it is his record and experience on the Mountain Village Council, says Felicelli, that is one of his strongest assets.
"There is a lot of gray area in most disputes and an elected official must be willing to work with others to achieve results," he says. "It is often and correctly stated that the art of good government is the art of compromise."
One had to listen closely to find differences between the two at their final debate, held at the Wilkinson Public Library on Thursday, July 27. At the debate, Felicelli listed some interesting ideas on how to strengthen or diversify the local economy. "Encouraging the arts is a great way to strengthen your economy," he said, suggesting encouragement of film industry development in the area. Trail development has worked wonders in other mountain towns and promoted eco-tourism, he suggested, and could be successful for San Miguel County. The creation of a "wellness center" is also on his list of potential economic drivers.
May recognized the role of tourism as the economic powerhouse in the region and suggested efforts focus on retaining short term visitors, increasing return visitors and marketing Telluride honestly. While she cited no specific means for doing so, she also expressed a wish for diversification of the local economy. "We have no shortage of creative business people here," she said.
The candidates both recognized the growing problem of social division based on economics, culture and geography. They suggested that increased affordable housing was the most critical component to addressing the growing rift, with May stressing that affordable housing not be separated from existing communities.
Energy is always a topic of discussion in the region and again both feel it is worthy of focus. Here, the difference between the two appears to lie in the method used to achieve lower consumption of energy within the county. At the debate, May said she was very supportive of creating house size limitations, while Felicelli appeared to favor achieving energy responsibility through green building codes. Both said they would support increased fees and mitigations for large-scale development.
The question of voters registering to vote in the Democratic primary seems to have become an issue, both candidates feel, because of a lack of contention. "The campaign has had so little controversy," says May, "that I think this issue has stuck around longer than its natural life."
"What I have always maintained," says Felicelli, "is that if a Republican, a Green, a Libertarian or an unaffiliated voter wanted to have a voice in this election, then they would need to switch parties." With Hall's withdrawal, he has been proven right. "I have always believed in inclusion and not exclusion," he adds.
May and Felicelli both say their focus has been on the Primary election, and that the withdrawal of Hall has not altered their campaigns. "Honestly," says May, "it's a relief that I'll know on the evening of August 8 what direction the next phase my life will take."
Most of the campaign funds for each were expended in their primary bid. Remaining funds for May will go "to pay people who have donated time and materials to the campaign," she says. Felicelli says he will donate any excess funds to the Valley Floor Acquisition Campaign and to the Telluride Council for the Arts and Humanities.