Houck, Swenson prevail
Both win handily in three-way BOCC races
Originally published 2012-11-08
Following a trend of Democrats prevailing in numerous races on the Gunnison County ballot this year, two open seats for County Commissioner followed suit.
Incumbent Commissioner Paula Swenson and Jonathan Houck, both Democrats, were elected to serve four-year terms on the county’s highest elected board Tuesday.
Both jumped out to early leads Tuesday, based on results from early voting that were reported about 8:30 p.m.
Those leads didn’t change as results continued to pour in, even despite vote-counting not being complete Tuesday evening (see related article).
When counting ceased Tuesday — with 700 mail ballots yet to be counted — Houck and Swenson had built insurmountable leads over their challengers.
Unofficial results reported early Wednesday indicate that Swenson garnered 44.4 percent of the vote in District 1, compared to Republican Stu Ferguson’s 36.8 percent and 18.8 percent for Steve Schechter of the Green Party.
The margin of victory for Houck in District 2 was slightly larger. Houck took 52.4 percent of the vote, compared to Republican Warren Wilcox’s 29.5 percent and independent Polly Oberosler’s 18.1 percent.
The next four years will mark Swenson’s third, consecutive term. She was first elected to the County Commission in 2004 after unseating first-term Republican Perry Anderson.
Swenson credited a commitment to keeping her word for Tuesday’s victory.
“I plan to finish what I started,” she said.
That includes working to support the county’s “managing for results” approach to identifying goals and prioritizing spending and continuing to foster a nascent economic development effort, in which she has been closely involved.
In the near-term, she’s welcoming some much-needed rest.
“I’m hopeful for the first time in four weeks I’ll get a good night’s sleep,” she said at a gathering of local Democrats at the Brick Cellar in Gunnison once the race’s outcome was known Tuesday.
Houck replaces two-term Democrat Hap Channell, who decided not to attempt retaining his seat this year.
The current Gunnison Mayor credited widespread involvement in the local community — from teaching to working with nonprofits, the arts and recreation pursuits — for his victory.
“People are looking for leadership that’s going to help us get back to an equilibrium ...,” he added. “I see a well-rounded opportunity for growth and maintaining the quality of life we have. ... We have the opportunity to grow and be more diverse. Yet we can protect the things that brought us here to begin with.”
Houck is expected to step down from council and will likely be replaced through an appointment. His current employment as project coordinator for the Gunnison County Substance Abuse Prevention Project will also come to an end amid his election.
As Cody Clark left the polls in Gunnison just before 7 p.m. Tuesday, the Pitkin resident spoke to his decision to back the two local Democratic commissioner candidates.
“I think all the candidates set a great example of what things should be like on a larger scale,” he offered.
That said, Clark indicated that he’s generally satisfied with how the county has been governed for the last four years.
“(Swenson) has always been down to earth, but when the time comes, she’s always professional,” he said.
As for Houck, Clark noted the Gunnison mayor’s vast involvement in the local community.
“He portrays an image of positivity and I think that’s what a community really needs,” Clark said.
(Will Shoemaker can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or email@example.com)