Grand County voters buck national trend by electing moderates, progressives to county council

Grand County voters bucked the more conservative national election trend that emerged on Nov. 4, choosing instead to elect moderate and progressive candidates to three open Grand County Council seats.

By sizeable margins, Jaylyn Hawks, Mary Mullen McGann and Chris Baird defeated their more conservative-leaning opponents in an election in which 74.15 percent of active Grand County voters cast ballots.

In the race for the Grand County Council at-large district, McGann defeated incumbent Jim Nyland by a vote of 1,897 to 1,595 — 54.32 percent to 45.68 percent.

In Council District 1, Chris Baird easily won election with 55.54 percent of the vote compared to 44.46 percent for his opponent, Kim Call. Baird received 361 votes to Call’s 289 in that contest for the seat currently held by council member Pat Holyoak.

Baird said he was surprised that he won his district by more than 10 percentage points.

“A progressive hasn’t won my district since 1998 so it felt like the odds were stacked against me,” he said. “I thought it was going to be closer than it was, that’s for sure.”

Call could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Baird said he believes the election results show that local voters are “fed up” with the council not listening to their views and with the current council’s decision to join the controversial Seven County Infrastructure Coalition

“I think that the results of the election show that the citizens of Grand County got really fed up with the council not listening to them and marginalizing them,” he said. “And that went on for a really long time. It took a toll on the voters. I think the majority of people just decided it was time for a change.”

Baird said he plans to take a wait-and-see approach when the new council is seated in January. He said he does not have any specific agenda but he will push for amendments to the Seven County Coalition agreement.

“As far as the coalition goes my tact has been to propose some amendments to the agreement and if they’re turned down, probably try to get out of it,” he said.

Jaylyn Hawks won the Council District 3 seat by the widest margin in any of the council races. Hawks received 519 votes, or 56.66 percent, to Manuel Torres’ 397 votes, or 43.34 percent.

“I’m excited to be able to move forward and serve Grand County in this capacity,” Hawks said Wednesday morning. “I am thoroughly overwhelmed and appreciative and grateful for the amazing volunteer effort that made this all happen.”

Torres said he wished Hawks well.

“The people spoke,” he said. “I wish Jaylyn good luck in her endeavor there.”

Torres said he was “a little bit” surprised by the election results in Grand County.

“It just seemed strange that the nation went so conservative and we went the other way a little bit,” he said.

In the race for Grand County Clerk/Auditor, preliminary election results showed incumbent Diana Carroll holding a razor-thin three-vote margin over challenger Zacharia Levine. By the end of voting on Tuesday, Carroll had received 1,735 votes, or 50.04 percent, while Levine received 1,732 votes, or 49.96 percent. Because of the close vote tally, the winner of the clerk/auditor race will not be determined until the official vote canvass on Nov. 12.

Carroll said Wednesday morning, Nov. 5, that at least 30 provisional ballots have not yet been counted, and the clerk’s office still could receive additional mail-in ballots that were postmarked by Nov. 3. Provisional ballots are cast when a voter’s name is not listed on the voting rolls or there are other questions about the voter’s eligibility. Those provisional ballots and any mail-in ballots that arrive after Election Day will be counted during the Nov. 12 vote canvass, she said.

Carroll said that if she ultimately loses the race to Levine, she will not ask for a recount.

“Regardless of how it turns out, I will not ask for a recount because I have full faith in the process and the equipment,” Carroll said.

Levine said he believes he will be declared the winner once all the ballots are in.

“I am confident that when all of the ballots are counted and the final tally is in, I will become the next Grand County Clerk/Auditor,” he told The Times-Independent on Wednesday morning.

In the race for Grand County Treasurer, Christopher Kauffman defeated Debbie Littlefield. Kauffman received 1,811 votes — 53.17 percent — to Littlefield’s 1,595 votes (46.83 percent). Kauffman will replace current treasurer Peggy Taylor, who is retiring at year’s end.

In all, Grand County mailed out 4,816 ballots to registered voters; 3,571 voted ballots were cast, Carroll said. She attributed the high voter participation, which topped even the 72 percent turnout in the 2012 presidential election year, to the county’s decision to move to mail-in only voting. Carroll said that since the ballots were mailed out to voters in early October her office received on average about 150 to 200 voted ballots each day, not including the number of people who returned their ballots to her office in person.

“I couldn’t be happier with the turnout. We had a very good 75 percent of the voters and that’s a great,” Carroll said. “I know a lot of people don’t like voting by mail but it’s great to see that kind of voter participation.”

ByBy Lisa J. Church

Staff Writer