Democratic, Republican parties to host debate series |

Democratic, Republican parties to host debate series

The Grand County Republican and Democratic parties are partnering to organize a debate series for county commissioner candidates.

The series, titled Grand Bipartisan Debates 2016, will see candidates from both sides of the political spectrum answer questions solicited from the public ahead of time.

Grand County Republican Party Chair Carl Wood said the idea to start a debate series was born from recent unrest in county government.

“Now that we’ve got two of the commissioners districts up for election this year, I think it’s safe to say that everyone in the county, us included, wants some good leadership,” Wood said.

Grand County Democratic Party Chair Sandy Doudna said that, with such a short window between the caucus and primary, it made sense to work together.

“It just made sense to pool our resources, put our efforts together and get it done,” Doudna said. “It’s a big county, it’s spread out, and it takes a lot of effort to reach people.”

The series includes five dates, three in May and two in June, in each of Grand County’s more populated areas: Hot Sulphur Springs, Winter Park, Grand Lake, Kremmling and Granby.

Candidates will answer the same four questions, with each giving a follow-up or rebuttal after the initial round of questioning.

In a sense, the structure will be more like that of a forum, Wood said.

“The other thing that I think perhaps a debate forum really works out for as well is the idea of being able to submit some questions that will interest you,” Wood said. “We believe we will get questions that will focus on the issues of each particular area in the county.”

Wood and Doudna will work together ahead of time, collecting questions from the public and choosing which ones to put to candidates.

Some questions will be shared with candidates ahead of time, while others won’t.

Each event will include all six candidates that stand to run in their party’s primary. In District One, that includes Democratic incumbent Jane Tollett and challenger Andy Miller, as well as Republican challengers Chas McConnell and Rich Cimino.

In District Two, that includes Republican incumbent Merrit Linke and challenger Tom Weydert.

“We list our candidates by district, and they have to live in that district, but really two things are happening,” Wood said. “One, the decisions they make affect the whole county, and because of that we elect them to represent the whole county.”

Doudna added that the entire county “needs to see” the candidates.

“I know that you have very different things on your plate than I have on mine, so yes, it makes sense that they come to talk to you in your area,” Doudna said.

So far, all six candidates have said they will participate in the series.

Each event will last around two hours, and a local service organization from each community will moderate its respective event.

Primary election ballots will be mailed June 5 and must be returned by Election Day on June 28.

Unaffiliated voters can affiliate and vote in the primary by visiting

All voters must be residents of Colorado by June 6.

Hank Shell can be reached at 970-557-6010.

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