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Gazette Premium Content Primary sprint to the finish: Bennet, Romanoff make Monday visits to Springs

WAYNE HEILMAN Updated: August 9, 2010 at 12:00 am

Voters in El Paso and Teller counties go to the polls Tuesday to select their parties candidates for offices ranging from U.S. Senate and Colorado governor to several local offices.

But before the final voting, candidates are hoping to make final impressions.

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, hoping to fend off a challenge from Andrew Romanoff, is in Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs this afternoon. Bennet did a downtown walk at 2 p.m. in Colorado Springs.

Bennet was later scheduled to be in downtown Manitou at 3 p.m.

Meanwhile, Romanoff was scheduled for a 5:30 p.m. appearance at an El Paso County Party/Phone Bank at 711 S. Tejon, Colorado Springs.

On Tuesday, Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis will be in Colorado Springs for a morning get-out-the-vote sign wave with supporters. McInnis will join supporters at the intersection of Austin Bluffs and Academy Boulevard at 7:15 a.m.  McInnis will start on the northwest corner of the intersection near the Old Chicago restaurant.

El Paso County Republicans will be picking candidates for sheriff, state treasurer, governor and U.S. senator, while Democrats have only one race to decide, U.S. Senate. In Teller County voters will pick Republican candidates for sheriff, assessor and clerk and recorder.

Colorado holds closed primaries, meaning only voters affiliated with political parties can vote in them. However, independent voters can jump in at the last minute by claiming a party affiliation at the polls.

El Paso County voters could have cast their ballots be mail or at polling places. Polling places are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Completed mail-in ballots can be dropped off at any polling place or between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. at any of three offices of the El Paso County Clerk & Recorder’s Office: 200 S. Cascade Ave., 8830 N. Union Blvd. and 5650 Industrial Place.

Teller County is conducting its election by mail ballot only: ballots can be returned between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. at both offices of the Teller County Clerk & Recorder: 101 W. Bennett Ave. in Cripple Creek and 540 Manor Court in Woodland Park.

Republicans will choose former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton or Weld County prosecutor Ken Buck for the Senate nomination. In the GOP gubernatorial race, Evergreen businessman Dan Maes if facing McInnis, a former six-term congressman from Grand Junction. They will also pick between state treasurer hopefuls Walker Stapleton and JJ Ament.

Democrats in both counties will decide a single contest pitting incumbent Bennet against former state House Speaker Romanoff.

Nearly all the races have been contentious, with some observers likening Colorado’s election season to a three-ring circus

• Bennet and Romanoff have sparred over campaign contributions from special interests and political action committees.

• Buck and Norton have traded shots over Norton’s position on higher taxes and Buck’s record as a prosecutor and his stand on illegal immigration.

• Maes and McInnis have each been accused of ethical lapses. Maes paid a record fine in a settlement with state regulators over alleged campaign finance violations and McInnis plagiarized large parts of essays he wrote on water for a Pueblo foundation.

Locally for the GOP, incumbent El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa is trying to fend off a feisty challenge from Monument Police Chief Jake Shirk. Response times have been the major issue for Shirk, a nearly 35-year police officer who has promised to increase deputy patrols 20 percent without asking for new taxes. Maketa, however, has maintained he knows the inner-workings of the Sheriff’s Office better than anyone — he’s spent his entire 23-year career there — and knows how to manage a tight budget.

In Teller County, Republican primary voters will decide nominees for sheriff, assessor and clerk and recorder.

The race for sheriff is the only one to bring two political newcomers head to head. Mike Ensminger, a law enforcement professor at a local college, and Mark Manriquez, a criminal investigator with the Colorado Division of Gaming in Cripple Creek, are vying for the county’s top law-enforcement office. Ensminger has emphasized the importance of his educational background, while Manriquez has touted his hands-on experience in law enforcement.

Betty Clark-Wine, a longtime real estate broker, is taking on Teller County Assessor Tom King. Clark-Wine said she will work directly with residents to resolve property valuation concerns, while King said he is installing new software to improve the efficiency and accuracy of property valuations.

Judith “JJ” Jamison is facing Juliana Mestas in the race for Teller County’s clerk and recorder. Jamison said she could best serve Teller County with her background as a financial planner. Mestas said her experience as Teller County’s chief deputy clerk makes her best qualified to run the office.

The Libertarian Party, a group that pushes for limited government and a strict interpretation of the Constitution, has a pair of primaries for its faithful. Maclyn Stringer faces John Finger in the party’s Senate race, while Dan Sallis is opposed by Jaimes Brown to be the Libertarian candidate for governor.

Contact the writer at 636-0234.

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