Peggy Littleton swiveled her hips and shimmied atop her high heels Tuesday night, capturing the dance contest and the title of Queen of the Copperhead Road bar. It was a sweet, final victory on a night when she trounced her Democratic opponent, four-term state House member Michael Merrifield, and made history by placing a third woman on the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners.
But there was plenty of celebrating to go around the Republican haunt. Two-term Commissioner Wayne Williams, a former county GOP chairman, easily defeated Democrat Tom Mowle, public trustee and retired career Air Force officer, in the clerk and recorder's race. Republican City Councilman Darryl Glenn, who began running for the office within weeks of being elected to a second term on Council in 2009, handily defeated Democratic novice Steve Kjonaas.
Meanwhile, voters also OK'd three term-limits questions posed by Republican county commissioners, who stand to gain an additional four-year term at $87,300-a-year. Extensions also were approved for other county offices, including clerk and recorder and the district attorney.
Merrifield voiced what many voters undoubtedly are thinking.
"I'm shocked about the term limits," he said in a phone interview late Tuesday night. "I think they didn't understand the question. The way the question was posed made it sound like they were going to limit terms when in fact they are extending them."
County officials have acknowledged they worded the measures strategically, asking whether officials should be limited to three terms. Unlike previous ballot measures, the questions didn't mention they're already limited to two terms.
Former commissioner and state Sen. Ed Jones called the measures "disgusting" and "a slap in the face" of voters.
Littleton, who said during the campaign that she supports term limits, said amid the din of a country band and well-wishers Tuesday night, "I'm not going to say I will term-limit myself."
Glenn terms the ballot measures "misleading," and wouldn't say Tuesday whether he will seek three consecutive terms. Earlier in the evening, before results were reported, commission Chairman Dennis Hisey said, "There's no guarantee I'm going to run for the third term if it happens. I didn't vote for it because I need a job. I think the voters deserve the choice." Commissioner Sallie Clark, who is up for re-election to a third term in 2012 and pushed for the extension, says she "probably will" run again.
If she does, she might face Merrifield.
"I'm actually considering moving back to the west side and running in that district in two years," Merrifield said. He notes the west side district is more Democrat-friendly, whereas Republicans outnumber Democrats in his current district by 9,000.
Glenn and Littleton vowed to search for places where the city of Colorado Springs and the county can work together to save money, naming parks, facilities, fleet services, public safety and transportation. Glenn added that because it's imperative the city and county work together, his priority starting in January will be to recruit candidates for the April 2011 Council races.
The man Glenn's replacing, Williams, credited his clerk and recorder win to overcoming outside money.
"I think the voters said Denver can't buy elections in El Paso County," he said. "That's where a lot of the money [for Mowle] came from. People trust that a Republican clerk and recorder will count the ballots accurately. The Democratic Party has been willing to engage in questionable election practices." (He admits that hasn't happened here, only because "they haven't been in charge in El Paso County.")
Merrifield called his outcome "a puzzle," because "it's evident I'm a much better candidate and would be a better commissioner.
"I don't use my position for personal profit," he added, a reference to Littleton's acting as a real estate agent for charter schools even as she regulates charter schools as a state Board of Education member.
But Merrifield, who many thought would become the first Democrat on the commission in 38 years, might have been victimized in the bloodbath voters delivered to Democrats nationwide.
"I was fighting this kind of anger and fear and misinformation," he says. "It went down the ballot far enough to catch me in the tide."