Newberry holds on to Grand County commissioner seat |

Newberry holds on to Grand County commissioner seat

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi News
Grand County, CO Colorado
Tonya Bina/ Sky-Hi Daily NewsElection officials watch as ballots are scanned and counted, a process projected via software onto a large screen in a small room in the Grand County Administration Building. Election officials manually resolve such times as when pen marks travel over ballot barcodes, when a scribble on a ballot causes the software to notify election officials, or when voters pen in names of uncertified write-in candidates such as God or Luke Skywalker.

Incumbent James Newberry has retained his Grand County commissioner seat and will serve his fifth four-year term in the county office.

Newberry defeated challenger Chas McConnell, who throughout election tallies kept within a few hundred votes of Newberry. The final unofficial count at around 2 a.m was 4,038 votes to 3,690 votes, with 313 voters who cast ballots, but did not vote that race.

The race between Newberry and McConnell of the district in the Fraser Valley was at times heated, with McConnell calling for commissioner term limits to prevent candidates like Newberry securing a seat for as long as he has. During debate moments, the two sparred on several topics, such as economic development, water, and the role of the county’s attorney.

Newberry, a high school sports coach besides his career as commissioner, has built a reputation as being a strong negotiator for defending the county’s water resources. He spent election evening in Denver at a coach’s meeting in preparation for the upcoming basketball season. Efforts to reach both Newberry and McConnell for comment on the outcome of the race were not successful after 2 a.m.

A total 8,077 voters cast ballots in Grand County’s 2012 election, with slightly more than 200 provisional ballots yet to be counted on Nov. 15.

At about 11 p.m., it became clear the race between Merrit Linke and Robb Rankin in District 2 would go to Linke, with an estimated 500 or so ballots still outstanding, but the margin too wide for Rankin to close the gap.

Rankin spent the evening at home with wife Molly. “I congratulate Merrit,” he said at around 11:30 p.m.. “We at least showed that politics don’t have to be nasty. I’m glad we had an election here in Grand County other than a Republican primary,” he continued. “He’ll be a better commissioner because of it, and I learned a lot in the process.”

Rankin, former superintendent of schools at East Grand School District, said he likely will continue working for the Boulder Valley School District in helping out in their human resources department. “I’ll play retiree,” he said. “Ski some and still keep busy working with them.”

The final unofficial vote count for District 2 was 4,515 votes for Linke to 3,073 votes for Rankin, with 451 voters who cast ballots but did not vote that race.

Also called around 11:30 p.m., Linke did not answer his phone for comment on his perceived victory. A message was left on his voicemail, but he did not return the call.

A Grand County native, Middle Park High School graduate, former teacher and a local business owner, Linke ran a straight-forward campaign touting “It’s no bull.”

He talked of the need for government to facilitate “resource-based businesses,” or products made here in Grand County and exported, and said he would be devoted to learning more about county functions and would meet with business leaders in the county to find out what is needed and what is working or not working. Administratively, Linke said in a Grand County debate he would encourage county department heads to report directly to the commissioners rather than to a county manager.

On the county’s estimated $25 million in reserves, the county’s newest commissioner said he would not encourage any capital projects, saying he would be conservative with reserves to be prepared for lower assessed values and less revenue to the county.

Linke fills the seat of two-term commissioner Nancy Stuart, who was defeated in the Republican primary.

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