Primary voters will decide choose candidates in closely contested races for a state House and Senate seat and three Republican county commissioner positions. All are traditionally "safe" districts for Republicans, in which primaries typically determine outcomes. Ballots were mailed last week.
The Gazette's editorial board is weighing in with endorsements in races that each involve two candidates with well-organized campaigns. Our endorsements are based on news reports, performance records, the news department's survey and election guide, campaign information and direct knowledge of candidates.
The board makes the following recommendations. Key word: "recommendations." The board encourages all voters to do their own research before voting.
House District 16
☑ Larry Liston
A 1970 graduate of Wasson High School, Liston, 63, has lived in Colorado Springs for almost 50 years. He represented House District 16 from 2005 to 2011. Liston is a reliable conservative, recognized as Republican of the Year in 2001 by Republican leadership of El Paso County. On the issues, he is:
- An unwavering defender of Colorado's Taxpayer's Bill of Rights.
- An opponent of the Affordable Care Act.
- Pro-business, reliably opposing new regulations of small businesses.
- A warrior for improved veterans benefits (2010 legislator of the year, United Veterans Committee).
- A solid supporter of the Second Amendment, receiving the endorsement of the Pikes Peak Firearms Coalition.
This race was going to be a difficult call until Liston's opponent, Rep. Janak Joshi, circulated an amateurish letter full of personal insults and misrepresentations so egregious they revealed stunningly poor judgment.
Senate District 12
☑ Bob Gardner
An Air Force veteran, Air Force Academy graduate, lawyer and six-year veteran of the Colorado House of Representatives, Gardner is a known defender of Republican values. He fights excessive taxes and regulations and attacks on religious liberties.
Gardner fought to ensure sex offenders were registered and punished when they violated the terms of their release and worked to protect children from Internet sex predators and violent attacks at school.
Gardner, 62, is a lot of great things to his community. Most important, perhaps, he is not Gordon Klingenschmitt,
As explained in a March 9 Gazette editorial, Klingenschmitt has consistently embarrassed El Paso County and Colorado Springs with his antics as representative for House District 15. He is the notable who routinely makes national headlines for things like outrageous remarks about a mother who lost her unborn child to a crime; accusing the president of causing cancer or homosexuals of molesting children to recruit them. He claims to know God's motives, after awful things happen to innocent people, then uses his comments to solicit money.
Senate District 12 needs a senator who can get things done for Colorado Springs, not one who wastes time basking in the limelight of dubious remarks.
County commissioner, District 2
☑ Mark Waller
Waller, 47, is a former county prosecutor, retired Air Force officer and Iraq War veteran. He is solid on issues important to the Republican base:
- Supported eliminating Colorado's Business Personal Property Tax.
- Led fight for felony drunken driving law.
- Opposes needless taxes, predatory anti- business lawsuits and excessive business regulations.
- Stood up to trial lawyers in defense of the business community.
Waller has a strong opponent in Tim Geitner. A legislative assistant to the Colorado Springs City Council, Geitner has a promising future in local or state government. But Waller offers a proven record of public service that is difficult to beat.
County commissioner, District 3
☑ Stan VanderWerf
A 55-year-old entrepreneur and retired Air Force colonel, VanderWerf exudes the talents, skills, experiences and educational background of a premier community leader. In fact, VanderWerf's background could serve as the template for a county commissioner's perfect resume.
People describe him as "very likable," "approachable," "kind," "bright," "substantive" and, as one community leader told us, "well-versed on the issues." In a Gazette survey, VanderWerf identified the following as top issues facing the county:
- Vagrancy and homelessness
- Road repair/replacement
- Fire and flood mitigation
- Economic development
- Better preparation for natural and man-made disasters
County residents will be fortunate to have a man of VanderWerf's temperament, character and background. He will improve the performance of county government.
County commissioner, District 4
☑ Longinos Gonzalez, Jr.
Gonzalez, 46, wants to wipe out the county's out-of-control illegal marijuana grows. He would improve public safety with better first-responder response times. He wants to enhance the combined training, dispatch and communication among emergency response agencies of municipalities.
He advocates more budget transparency, while emphasizing the urgency of road and bridge repairs. He also promises to achieve better fire and flood preparation throughout the county. He is pro energy.
Gonzalez is an Air Force Academy graduate and public school teacher. He exudes passion for improving our community's business climate, and has a promising future as a community leader.