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Vargas, Williams, DeLalla in District 1 primary race

June 6, 2018 Updated: June 17, 2018 at 6:46 pm
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A woman who's long played a role in the El Paso County Republican community and another who's relatively new to the local GOP scene are vying to become the party's nominee for District 1 county commissioner.

Competing for the nomination in the June 26 primary are Holly Williams, longstanding GOP political operative and the wife of Secretary of State Wayne Williams, and Calandra Vargas, who rose in prominence on the state's political landscape in 2016 when she nearly knocked U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn off the primary ballot.

Democratic candidate Frank DeLalla, a retired software engineer, will face the Republican victor in the November election.

The district, one of two that will elect a new commissioner in November, currently is represented by Board of County Commissioners President Darryl Glenn and covers a swath of northern El Paso County that includes Black Forest and part of Monument.

Colorado Springs City Councilman Bill Murray, who had previously expressed interest in running for the seat, told The Gazette on June 1 he no longer had plans to run.

Vargas, a former state legislative aide, came just 18 votes shy of replacing Lamborn on the primary ballot two years ago after she delivered a rousing speech during the 5th Congressional District Assembly.

She told The Gazette that, if elected county commissioner, she would commit to working with state legislators to create policies that offer solutions to local-level problems, from support for infrastructure projects to efforts that cut down on illegal marijuana grows in rural areas of the county.

"Voters are hoping for fresh faces and fresh ideas. They're tired of status quo Republican politics," said Vargas, 34, who works as an equestrian contractor offering services such as grooming and training.

Holly Williams became the county's public trustee in 1999, appointed to the position by then-Gov. Bill Owens after she and her husband helped run his two gubernatorial campaigns.

The trustee's office came under fire in 2003, when an audit found that records were so poorly kept that the county's then finance director said she couldn't be sure money hadn't been stolen. But Williams, who left the trustee position in 2007 to work for Lamborn, told The Gazette a subsequent audit found that all of the issues had been resolved within a year.

Her husband served as the district's commissioner for two terms before he was elected to his current office.

"I felt this was a good time for me to try and step up and try to offer my service to our community," said Holly Williams, 52, who's now an administrator at the county's Household Hazardous Waste Facility.

In separate interviews, Vargas and Williams emphasized the need to address water supply concerns in the northern part of the county by developing a plan that brings the area's patchwork of water providers together to consider long-term solutions.

Both candidates also said the county must consider innovative solutions, such as bonding, to pay for maintenance and improvements to local roads without raising taxes.

DeLalla, 62, has spent years working in program management and business development for defense contractors like Lockheed Martin and L3 Technologies, formerly L-3 Communications. He said his experience has given him not only the ability to negotiate, but also the ability to "think like an engineer," looking for the root cause of a problem and breaking larger issues into smaller, more manageable ones.

"I'm not a politician," he said. "The more I've gotten smart on the issues that are confronting the county, the more I think I can bring a new and different perspective to the board of commissioners."

DeLalla said the county's master plan should be updated to better accommodate for future growth, making room for housing for the working middle class as well as improvements and expansions of highways and other infrastructure.

He also said that county commissioners and county planning staff should consider the availability of water resources earlier in the land use and development review process.

Through May 31, Holly Williams' campaign had raised about $22,500 and spent about $19,300, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Secretary of State's Office.

Vargas had raised about $18,300 and spent about $15,500.

DeLalla had raised $950, loaned his campaign $200, and spent about $400.

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