November 5, 2012
El Paso County voters were poised to reverse their decision of two years ago on term limits, returning most county elected officials to two four-year terms, according to nearly complete election returns as of press time Tuesday.
That won’t affect county commissioners Sallie Clark and Dennis Hisey, who were headed to victory in contested races and third terms. Commissioner chairwoman Amy Lathen was likely to retain her seat for a second term.
With about 93 percent of votes cast — the county was poised to beat the record number of voters set four years ago — changing term limits got 58 percent.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all after all the negative publicity that there was surrounding that,” said Hisey. “That’s really what I expected.”
David Kelley of Liberty First, a local political group, and Michael Schlierf spoke before commissioners Tuesday and told Hisey and Clark that they “expect that they will honor the intent of the voters.”
But Hisey and Clark said they won’t succumb to pressure and will serve their third term.
“I think that my constituents, based on what we’ve seen, elected me to serve and continue to serve into this last term, and I intend to do that,” Clark said.
Still, as long as Clark and Hisey are on the board, the term limit issue won’t die.
In 2010, voters changed term limits — a term is four years — for elected county officials from two to three. Afterward, many voters said they’d been confused by the ballot language and demanded a redo.
The 2010 language asked voters whether officials should be limited to three terms, not mentioning they were capped at two at that time.
Commissioners Peggy Littleton and Darryl Glenn wanted voters to have another crack at the issue in a 2011 election. But they were opposed by the other three commissioners and the issue was put on the back burner until this year. That guaranteed Clark and Hisey the opportunity to run for a third term.
Glenn and Littleton wanted simpler ballot language for the 2012 question, but lost in a 3-2 vote. They argued the ballot question encouraged voters to leave term limits at three.
Hisey has continually argued that voters control term limits, no matter the length of time officials are allowed to serve.
Lathen won’t be able to seek a third term as voters overturned the change they made in 2010 when they increased term limits from two to three.
Hisey faced a challenge from Democrat Doskor Hanchett Jr. and was leading 47 percent to 36 percent in District 4. Kathy Payne of the American Constitution Party had 5 percent and the Green Party’s Bradley Harris 2 percent.
In District 3, Clark was leading Democrat John Morris 52 percent to 39.
“All I can say is I really worked, very hard to take the high road,” Clark said. “I didn’t do any negative campaigning. I tried to run on my record, on the projects that we’ve done, on the things that I’m proud of serving this community, on all the things I want to continue to get done for El Paso County and District 3.”
Lathen was leading with 68 percent against Green Party candidate Karyna Lemus in District 2.
A Democrat hasn’t served as commissioner since Stan Johnson resigned the post in 1975.
Contact Bob Stephens: 636-0276 Twitter @bobgstephens
Facebook Gazette Bob Stephens