John Morris may have been a reluctant candidate in the El Paso County District 3 county commissioner race but expressed confidence that he can displace incumbent Sallie Clark.
“I’m running on the integrity issue,” said Morris, a first-time candidate who served as county Democratic Party chairman from 2005to 2009.
Morris tried to convince others to oppose Clark. But when no challenger emerged by the Democratic caucus in March, he stepped forward.
“He’s a progressive liberal, running just to have a race,” Clark said.
As for Morris questioning her integrity, Clark said, “That’s a pretty disgusting attack. Welcome to politics.”
Morris said he expects to unseat Clark, who is trying to win the seat for a third time.
“This is a referendum on leadership, and it comes back to integrity,” Morris said. “I think there’s a real unhappiness in the Republican Party for her, as demonstrated by her getting second line in the primary.”
At the Republican caucus, Clark received less support than challenger Karen Magistrelli, a political newcomer, and was relegated to the second choice on the primary ballot. That was, in part, a backlash to the controversial 2010 ballot issue that allowed commissioners to run for a third term. Voters approved the change from two terms to three but many claimed confusing ballot language was crafted to dupe voters and Clark — whether fairly or not — became the face of that controversy.
“It was so clearly self-serving,” Morris said. “It was a moral lapse. Using government for your own benefit is so appalling. They thought they’d get away with it, and maybe they will.”
No Democrat has served as El Paso County commissioner since Stan Johnson vacated his position in 1975.
“Forty years of Republican rule is an issue,” Morris said. “I would bring a different point of view to discussions. A wider base of discussion is healthy in a democratic society. And it would send a message to the community that if you screw around, you might pay a price.”
Clark said she works hard for constituents, is always available, and has helped improve public safety, transportation, fire recovery and flood mitigation, human services and child care issues.
And although Clark said she takes every campaign seriously, she all but declared victory.
“I think it’s very unlikely that a Democrat could win,” Clark said. “It’s a very Republican district. I’m a conservative Republican with common-sense values.”
Morris said Clark is too willing to accept federal handouts for the county. He acknowledges that she serves on lots of committees but said positive results are lacking.
“She’s really good at talking,” Morris said. “A lot of people say she talks out of both sides of her face.”
Morris figures he can attract independent voters as well as some of the Republican base.
“We have a significant progressive group of people in this community,” Morris said. “People on the Westside are more than willing to vote their mind, not just as a Republican. They’ve demonstrated a real independence and willingness to do that over the years.
“Magistrelli got 6,000 votes in the primary. Those votes were against Sallie and might be enough for me to win.”
In District 2, incumbent Amy Lathen is opposed by Karyna Lemus of the Green Party.
In District 4, two-time incumbent Dennis Hisey is opposed by Democrat Doskor Hanchett Jr., Brad Harris of the Green Party, and Kathy Payne of the American Constitution Party.
Contact Bob Stephens: 636-0276 Twitter @bobgstephens
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