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Amid low voter turnout, Colorado state primary results determine candidates for November election

A “Vote” flag hangs near an Eagle County ballot box outside the clerk and recorder’s office in El Jebel on Thursday, June 13, 2024. For the primary election, ballots must be returned by 7 p.m. on June 25.
Kelsey Brunner
/
Aspen Public Radio
A “Vote” flag hangs near an Eagle County ballot box outside the clerk and recorder’s office in El Jebel on Thursday, June 13, 2024. For the primary election, ballots must be returned by 7 p.m. on June 25.

Voters across Colorado cast ballots yesterday in the state’s primary elections. The primary results determine which candidates will appear on the ballot in state and local races in the general election on November 5. The general election will also include the presidential election.

Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District: Jeff Hurd wins Republican primary 

Jeff Hurd of Grand Junction will face Democrat Adam Frisch of Aspen in the November general election.

The Associated Press called the race for Hurd at 8:15 p.m., with 42% of the vote, beating out five other challengers. Those challengers were Stephen A. Varela, Ron Hanks, Lew Webb, Russ Andrews, and Curtis M. McCrackin. Hanks, a former state lawmaker, was the next highest vote getter, with about 27 percent of the vote.

Hurd was born and raised in Grand Junction, and works as an attorney specializing in energy, specifically representing Western Slope rural energy co-ops.

In an interview with Aspen Public Radio, he said his biggest priorities include immigration reform and the U.S. border with Mexico, energy independence and production, and bringing jobs and economic opportunity to Western Colorado.

He said these issues are reflective of what he’s heard so far from voters on the campaign trail.

“The issues that I hear most about are securing the border, and concern about the lack of control that we have over the migrants that are coming into our country,” he said. “But specifically, what I hear most from people are economic concerns. Cost of living, inflation, cost of energy… the cost of gas, the cost of food, the cost of housing is also something that I hear everywhere in this district.”

Though Hurd touts conservative bona fides, he has struck a more moderate figure than the five other candidates running in the primary.

“My approach is, I would disagree, but do so without being disagreeable,” he said. “There are a whole host of issues when it comes to rural Colorado that I think I can partner with my colleagues on the Democratic side of the aisle with. Agriculture and water come to mind right away, but I also think on energy policy as well.”

He also emphasized that he would strive to be a representative for everyone in the district, regardless of whether or not they voted for him.

Hurd’s endorsements include two former Republican representatives for CD3: Scott McInnis and Scott Tipton.

In a statement, Frisch, who lost the 2022 race for CD3 by just 546 votes, congratulated Hurd on his primary victory but criticized some of his positions.

“The last thing our district needs is another corporate lawyer funded by corporate PAC money,” he wrote. “My presumptive opponent won’t have the backbone to stand up to Washington interests. He will choose a federal abortion ban over trusting the women of CD3 to have the freedom to make their own health care choices.”

Hurd has said he’s pro-life, but thinks abortion laws should be left up to the states, and would not support a federal abortion ban.

Pitkin Board of County Commissioners: Jacober, Kronberg advance in District 5 primary

Out of three openings for Pitkin County Commissioner this year, District 5 is the only contested race. The district includes the Pitkin County sections of the Crystal River and Fryingpan valleys, as well as parts of the Snowmass Canyon and Basalt.

Tuesday’s primary election narrowed the field for that race, with incumbent Francie Jacober and challenger Toni Kronberg set to appear on the November ballot.

Jacober had a convincing lead based on preliminary numbers released around 10:45 p.m. She earned 1,726 votes, or about 57.1% of the total.

Kronberg earned 813 votes, a little more than 26.9% of the total.

A third candidate, Neil Reilley, did not secure enough votes to advance past the primary; he had 482 votes by 10:45 p.m., accounting for about 16% of the total.

Jacober, a registered Democrat who is currently in her first term on the board, has campaigned on a few core issues. Her platform is focused on preserving open space and agricultural lands, sustaining and expanding county services for the community, and supporting “net zero” efforts for the county through a climate action plan and sustainable building practices.

Kronberg, her challenger, is focused largely on the safety and efficiency of Highway 82, along with issues related to affordable housing, mental health services and the layout of the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport. Kronberg ran as an unaffiliated candidate.

Jacober and Kronberg will face off in the November 5th general election.

Reilley’s campaign focused largely on preserving the rural and agricultural character of Pitkin County. He wanted to see the county slow down on development and ramp up environmental protections.

Two other county commissioner races are uncontested this year.

Incumbent Greg Poschman is the sole candidate for District 3, which represents most of the Maroon Creek and Castle Creek valleys, as well as West Buttermilk, the Aspen Airport Business Center, Woody Creek, McClain Flats, Juniper Hill, and some homes on Owl Creek Road.

Jeffrey Woodruff is the sole candidate in District 4, which includes most of Snowmass Village and Old Snowmass. The current District 4 commissioner, Steve Child, is term-limited.

Eagle Board of County Commissioners: Boyd slightly ahead of Smith Hymes in race for District 2

Voters in Eagle County have decided which candidates for county commissioner will be on the November ballot.

Two seats are open, and in District 1, the Democratic and Republican candidates ran uncontested. Incumbent Democrat Matt Scherr will face off against Republican challenger Gregg Cooper in the general election.

The District 2 primary was a contested race for Democrats — with the candidates almost neck-and-neck for the chance to appear on the November ballot. As of 10:15 p.m. on election night, Tom Boyd was ahead with 51.5% of the vote, against Sarah Smith Hynes’ 48.5%.

There are no candidates on the Republican ballot, which means if the Colorado Secretary of State certifies these preliminary results, Boyd is likely to run unopposed in the general election, unless there’s a write-in candidate.

Boyd ran on issues like affordable housing, transportation, climate action and protecting natural resources and has served on the Eagle County Lodging Tax Marketing Committee, the board of the Eagle River Coalition, and the executive team that helped draft the county’s climate action plan. He’s also the chair of the board for “Community Builders” — a nonprofit that’s focused on housing, redevelopment and land use issues, among others.

Both District 1 and 2 cover communities along the I-70 corridor between Eagle and Vail, but the elections are at-large, meaning all voters in the county have a say in who fills the positions. That includes voters who live in the Eagle County portions of Basalt and El Jebel.

Democratic primary - University of Colorado Board of Regents, at-large seat

Elliot Hood will be the Democrat Coloradans see on their ballot in November for the CU Regents’ at-large seat. Hood won 52% of the vote, beating Charles “CJ” Johnson. He’ll face Republican Eric Rinard in November.

More uncontested races

Several of the races were uncontested, meaning that only one Democrat or only one Republican were running, and those candidates will appear on the ballot in the November 5 general election.

In Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, Adam Frisch of Aspen is the only Democrat running.

In Colorado Senate District 5, Republican Marc Catlin of Montrose and Democrat Cole Buerger of Glenwood Springs will appear on the November ballot. Catlin is currently a state representative, and Buerger is a small business owner.

In Colorado House District 57, Incumbent Democrat Elizbeth Velasco of Glenwood Springs is seeking re-election. In November, she will face Republican Caleb Waller of Silt. Waller currently runs a bed and breakfast.

For the Garfield Board of County Commissioners, both Districts 2 and 3 are up for election, and both have uncontested primaries.

In District 2, Republican Perry Will and Democrat Caitlin Carey, both of New Castle, will be on the ballot in the general election. Will currently serves as a State Senator for Colorado’s Senate District 5, and Carey serves on New Castle’s Town Council.

In District 3, Incumbent Republican Mike Samson will face Democrat Steven Arauza in November. Both candidates live in Rifle. Samson has served on the board since 2008, and Arauza works for the state as an environmental protection specialist, enforcing compliance in the oil and gas industry.

Republican Sherri M Wright and Democrat Ellen Angeles will appear on the November ballot to represent the 3rd Congressional District on Colorado’s State Board of Education.

Robert B. Logan is the only Democrat running to represent CD3 on the University of Colorado’s Board of Regents, and Ray Scott is the only Republican running for the seat.

Eric Rinard is the only Republican running to be an at-large regent on the university’s board.

Republican Ben Sollars of Glenwood Springs will be the new district attorney for the 9th judicial district, which includes Garfield, Pitkin, and Rio Blanco counties. Current DA Jeff Cheney is term-limited, and there are no Democrats running for the seat.

Voter turnout continues downward trend 

Throughout Colorado, voter turnout was lower this year than it was in the previous two state primaries, continuing a downward trend in election participation.

Across the state, more than 908,000 people cast ballots out of 3.8 million active registered voters, according to Secretary of State data updated around 11:15 p.m.

That’s a turnout rate of about 23.9%. Garfield County skewed higher, around 25.3%. Pitkin County also beat the state average with a turnout of 24.5%. Eagle County dipped lower than the average at about 21.6%.

Those numbers are subject to change slightly as the final ballots are counted, but it’s still a fraction of the voter turnout rate from four years ago.

In 2020, about 1.6 million people cast ballots in the state primary in June. Out of 3.5 million active registered voters, the turnout was about 45%. Garfield County had more than 44% voter turnout, while Pitkin County had nearly 43% and Eagle County had more than 40%.

For comparison, statewide turnout in the March presidential primary earlier that year was more than 51%, and in the general election, it was more than 86%.

In 2022, participation in the state primaries had already dropped to about 32% across Colorado, representing about 1.2 million people casting ballots out of 3.8 million active registered voters.

Pitkin County had a turnout rate of more than 39%, Garfield County had a rate of about 38%, and Eagle County had a little more than 26% of its registered voters show up at the polls.

Caroline Llanes is a general assignment reporter at Aspen Public Radio, covering everything from local governments to public lands. Her work has been featured on NPR. Previously, she was an associate producer for WBUR’s Morning Edition in Boston.
Halle Zander is a broadcast journalist and the afternoon anchor on Aspen Public Radio during "All Things Considered." Her work has been recognized by the Public Media Journalists Association, the Colorado Broadcasters Association, and the Society of Professional Journalists.
Kaya Williams is the Edlis Neeson Arts and Culture Reporter at Aspen Public Radio, covering the vibrant creative and cultural scene in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley. She studied journalism and history at Boston University, where she also worked for WBUR, WGBH, The Boston Globe and her beloved college newspaper, The Daily Free Press. Williams joins the team after a stint at The Aspen Times, where she reported on Snowmass Village, education, mental health, food, the ski industry, arts and culture and other general assignment stories.