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Caucus should provide early insight on which El Paso County candidates might succeed

March 5, 2018 Updated: March 6, 2018 at 4:39 pm
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FILE - Participants from precinct 102 take a straw poll for Bernie Sanders during the Democratic caucus at Coronado High School on Tuesday, March 1, 2016. Photo by Stacie Scott, The Gazette.

Local Democrats and Republicans will gather Tuesday night at churches and schools across El Paso County to take their first steps toward nominating candidates for county offices up for grabs in the Nov. 6 election.

The precinct caucuses won't result in any immediate picks to run for sheriff and two county commission slots. But delegates will be chosen for higher-level assemblies that will decide on candidates for the June 26 primary ballot.

Four Republicans seek to represent county District 1, encompassing the Air Force Academy, Black Forest and some of Monument. Colorado Springs Councilman Bill Murray has said he might run as an unaffiliated candidate.

Four candidates are running in District 5, to represent much of central Colorado Springs east of Interstate 25.

Most county candidates are trying to get on the ballot via the caucuses and county assemblies, set for March 24 for Republicans and March 31 for Democrats.

Candidates may bypass the caucus and petition their way onto the ballot by collecting voter signatures equal to at least 20 percent of votes cast in the previous primary for that office. Petitions must be filed by March 20.

District 1 candidate Chris Whitney is using the petition option. Murray is collecting signatures, but he's not yet registered as a candidate, according to the Secretary of State's Office.

Only one Democrat - Kari Frederick - remains in the running for a county seat after two dropped out:

Robert Force withdrew his candidacy for District 1 less than a month after he entered the race, state campaign filings show.

Cynthia Pulham told The Gazette she has also will withdraw.

Sheriff's race:

Sheriff Bill Elder is seeking re-election against Mike Angley, a retired Air Force colonel. Both are Republicans.

District 1 candidates:

- Ann Howe, Republican, was a state representative in New Hampshire but said she returned to Colorado less than a year later when her mother became ill.

She has rallied for the expansion of Interstate 25 between Monument and Castle but opposed the state plan to make the added lanes toll lanes. See annhowe4co.com.

- Chris Whitney, Republican, has been the state's brand commissioner since 2011 and worked with Resorts International Inc. and other resort companies.

He said he chose the petition route as best option for a candidate not as well-known among local Republicans.

Whitney said he would strive to balance the needs of rural and urban communities and to limit the size of government while ensuring that citizens get the services they need. See votechriswhitney.com.

- Holly Willliams, Republican, is married to Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and is an administrative assistant for a county Household Hazardous Waste Facility.

Williams was appointed to be the county's public trustee by then-Gov. Bill Owens after she and her husband helped run his gubernatorial campaigns. She held the position from 1999 to 2009, when she left to work for U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn.

She said after more than two decades of grassroots work with the local Republican Party, she wants to maintain the district's quality of life as it continues to grow. See hollyforcolorado.com.

- Calandra Vargas caught the attention of Republicans in 2016 when she delivered a rousing speech at the 5th Congressional District Assembly. Had she won 18 more delegate votes, she would have replaced Lamborn as the Republican nominee on the ballot. 

Vargas, then an aide to former state Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, has worked on campaigns including Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential run.

If said she would make citizens' voices heard on issues from infrastructure to conservation. See calandraforcolorado.com.

District 5 candidates:

- Cami Bremer, Republican, is community and physician relations manager at Penrose Hospital and was governmental affairs director for the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce before it merged with the EDC.

She emphasized the need for county-city collaboration on public safety, homelessness and transportation. See camibremer.com

- Kari Frederick, Democrat, runs a bed and breakfast that allows marijuana use. She said she decided to run after she sought to expand her business and commissioners told her not to waste her money because they wouldn't approve it.

She said she would find creative solutions, such as allowing armed veterans to volunteer to guard schools. She does not have a website.

- Lawrence Martinez, Republican, filed his candidacy Monday. He ran to be Colorado Springs mayor in 2015 and lost to John Suthers.

Martinez runs a consulting company and is a caretaker for terminally-ill cancer patients.

He said he would work to bring more jobs to the district and help people find jobs. He does not have a website.

- Vickie Tonkins, Republican, ran unsuccessfully in 2015 for an at-large Colorado Springs City Council seat. She works for ComPsych Corp., which provides employee assistance programs, and helps run a nonprofit serving at-risk youth.

She said she would address the proliferation of illegal marijuana grows and would improve government transparency and accountability. See vickietonkins.com.

Colorado Politics and The Gazette's Conrad Swanson contributed to this report.

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