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The summer election is gone, but the political finger-wagging lives on

Primary night hangover



It's been more than a week since the June 28 primary, so you might think tempers have died down.

You would be wrong.

For some Republican hopefuls, this primary was jammed full of more campaign sputum than they've ever seen. For others, the fight was more genteel, though the devastation of a primary defeat was no less raw — and in many cases, expensive.

We checked in with some of the candidates, and now former candidates, in local races following the big night (we'll follow up next week with Darryl Glenn and the U.S. Senate race). Here are some of the highlights:

  • Courtesy Larry Liston
  • Larry Liston

Larry Liston, Republican nominee for House District 16, thinks Jon Hotaling is "the devil."

In Liston's defense, Hotaling, a political consultant who worked for Liston rival Rep. Janak Joshi's campaign, gave him reasons aplenty to dislike him, starting with the persistent "Larry Lies" campaign. Various ads accused Liston of cross-dressing, being a liberal, and supporting Obamacare — all abhorrent accusations in the eyes of your average Liston supporter.

Hotaling was trying to help Joshi, a tea party favorite, retain his House District 16 seat. The seat was previously held by Liston before he was term-limited in 2012. But Liston says he decided to challenge Joshi this year — an unusual move for a fellow Republican — because he didn't feel his opponent was reaching out to his constituents or effectively representing them in the Legislature. Joshi, who did not return a phone call seeking comment, didn't take kindly to the challenge.

Liston solidly defeated Joshi on primary night, garnering more than 60 percent of the vote. Nevertheless, Liston says he's still angry about Joshi's tactics.

"When you get in bed with Jon Hotaling, you are quite frankly getting in bed with devil," Liston says, adding, "He's evil."

Liston says he feels like "the forces of good" won out on election night. He says he thinks the turning point came when the Joshi campaign sent a letter from state Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, to Liston supporters that blasted Liston and asked his supporters to rescind their donations to his campaign. Liston says the letter backfired.

"I don't know whether to condemn Kent Lambert or thank him," Liston says, "because I probably raised at least $3,000 as a result of the letter he sent."

  • Courtesy Bob Gardner
  • Bob Gardner

• Bob Gardner is still reeling from Gordon Klingenschmitt's accusations. Meanwhile, Klingenschmitt says he just really needs money.

State Rep. Klingenschmitt sent out an email to his supporters following his defeat in the State Senate District 12 Republican primary to former state Rep. Bob Gardner. In it, Klingenschmitt thanks his supporters and claims that "seven outside groups spent $113,000+ against me, much of it illegally false and anonymous." He goes on to say that Gardner was supported by "100+ lobbyists" and that "openly gay Democrats admit they spent money to defeat me."

Klingenschmitt states that he spent $36,000 of his own money on his campaign, which he cannot recover, and that his "family is now nearly broke." The email seeks donations to help defray his campaign debt.

Aside from one term in the Legislature, Klingenschmitt is a former military chaplain known for his nonprofit "Pray in Jesus Name" and his attacks on LGBTQ people and others he sees as morally repugnant. He's made national headlines for years with his comments, including calling a transgender child "a demon," and saying a woman whose fetus was cut from her womb in a criminal act was targeted by God as punishment for women having legal abortions.

Unsurprisingly, Klingenshmitt managed to bring God into his campaign farewell.

"In all my endeavors I have tried simply to establish the kingdom of God on this earth," he wrote. "In Luke 19, Jesus commands us to occupy until he comes. But in verse 14 of the parable of the talents, the citizens did not want God's appointed steward to rule over them. At the end of the story, the King returns and takes his throne. I look forward to His return, and I want only Christ to rule my heart and world. Maranatha. Come quickly, Lord."

Meanwhile, Gardner, who won the primary with over 61 percent of the vote, says, tongue firmly in cheek, that he was "surprised to see that my election was apparently not God's will."

Gardner says he's still "astounded by the things that my opponent says about me," perhaps most notably that Gardner is not conservative enough, particularly on social issues. While Gardner says he does tend to stress economic issues, he's irked by the suggestion that he's in any way liberal.

"I don't consider myself less of a social conservative than others of the Republican caucus and so forth," he says. "It's been distressing to me ... to pick up the paper and read that I was the more moderate candidate or that I was less conservative."

He adds, "You don't have to be offensive to everyone to have conservative principles and argue for those conservative principles."

  • Courtesy Scott Turner
  • Scott Turner

• Scott Turner and Longinos Gonzalez Jr. may or may not be freaking the hell out.

Turner and Gonzalez are still duking it out in the Republican primary for the District 4 county commissioner seat. Currently, the unofficial count shows Gonzalez winning by 32 votes, 3,438 votes to 3,406. But the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office will not call the race until after July 7 (beyond the Indy's deadline) when the election results are certified.

In a voicemail to the Indy, Turner said he wasn't in a position to comment until after July 7. Gonzalez told the Indy that he feels "a little nervous, of course," but that he's thankful for all those who voted for him and is patiently waiting to hear the final tally.

Ryan Parsell, spokesperson for the Clerk's Office, says about 150 military and overseas ballots still could come in, and another 46 ballots will need signatures verified by the voter to be counted. The Clerk's Office sends a notification to voters who need to verify signatures, and Parsell says that in a primary election, it wouldn't be unusual to have more than half of those ballots verified and counted. (Candidates are also welcome to request a list of voters with signature problems so they can notify supporters.)

  • Courtesy Longinos Gonzalez Jr.
  • Longinos Gonzalez Jr.

Parsell says he would only expect about 20 more overseas and military ballots to come in — though it can be difficult to predict.

Still, those extra ballots could affect the vote totals. And if the race ends up much closer, the Clerk's Office may be required to do a recount. To decide if a recount is required, the Clerk's Office takes the vote leader's total (currently that's Gonzalez's 3,438 votes) and multiplies it by .005 (right now, that comes to 18 votes, since the total is always rounded up) — so a vote difference of 18 or less would trigger an automatic recount.

That said, either candidate could request and pay for a recount if one is not triggered automatically. Parsell says recounts historically have cost anywhere from $7,000 to $20,000.

  • Courtesy Mark Waller
  • Mark Waller

Mark Waller will likely take his seat early. But he's not going to say that, because you know what they say about assumptions.

Having trounced GOP rival Tim Geitner with nearly 60 percent of the vote, former state representative and future District 2 county commissioner Mark Waller is on easy street. Unlike many other candidates, Waller doesn't have to face a Democrat in November, meaning the election is done for him at this point.

What's more, since current District 2 Commissioner Amy Lathen previously announced she would step down July 11 and take the helm of Colorado Springs Forward, Waller is likely to take his seat early — though he's not willing to say that.

"I don't want to get too far ahead of the game," he says cautiously.

Here's the deal: The Republican central committee for District 2, oddly chaired by Clerk's Office spokesperson Parsell, will meet July 15. Candidates for the seat — including any nominated from the floor — will give their presentations and then there will be a vote. Parsell says the 93 precinct leaders from District 2, along with some county party officers and elected officials who live in District 2, will take part in the vote.

The nominee will then be sworn in at the next Board of County Commissioners meeting. County spokesperson Dave Rose says that's planned for July 19.

The whole situation is a bit awkward. First, no one wants to anoint Waller, though he's doubtless the shoo-in. Second, Parsell is thoroughly weirded out by having to lead the vacancy committee, a duty he was not expecting when he took the chairman position.

"This was just supposed to be some sort of meh thing," Parsell says of his chairmanship, which he was only willing to talk about after he was off work. "It's never been something that's been in the papers."

  • Courtesy Stan VanderWerf
  • Stan VanderWerf

Stan VanderWerf says he's taking his fight against Democrat Electra Johnson very seriously. Even though a Dem hasn't been elected county commissioner since 1970.

VanderWerf won the Republican primary for District 3. If history is any guide, that's enough to win him the seat.

"Stan is a very strong candidate," Daniel Cole, former executive director of the El Paso County Republican Party, says. "I don't think he'll have any problems with Electra Johnson, although I hear good things about her as well."

Cole says the problem for Johnson is the numbers — the district leans too far conservative, compared to other commissioner districts. District 3's active registered voters are 25.7 percent Democrats, 39.3 percent Republicans and 33.2 percent unaffiliated voters. By comparison District 5 is 26.4 percent Democrats, and District 4 is 25.8 percent Democrats.

Karen Cullen, who lost the GOP primary to VanderWerf despite giving her campaign a $50,000 loan, seemed to agree with Cole, saying she hoped VanderWerf would take a few things away from her campaign, giving attention to smaller communities and paying attention to major issues like child abuse and suicide.

  • Courtesy Electra Johnson
  • Electra Johnson

But VanderWerf, who says he likes Johnson, isn't taking a win for granted.

"I'm taking it seriously," he says. "I don't think when you're running for office you should ever let up."

Johnson, for her part, says she thinks she can convince voters that it's time for a new voice.

"Stan's a good guy," she says. "He's very smart, but I feel like he's business as usual. He's not a career politician, but he's riding the tail of career politicians like Mark Waller."

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