Though the El Paso County's board of commissioners is entirely filled with Republicans, few would say it has been a clubby place since Douglas Bruce's election three years ago.
Name-calling, interruptions and sighs of frustration have been commonplace as Bruce has opposed his colleagues on spending measures, abstained from votes on "symbolic" resolutions, and generally gone his own way.
But Bruce's way is now to the state Legislature, and that means a local Republican committee will be choosing his replacement in January.
Three candidates say they would bring a lighter touch to the county board while holding true to Bruce's dictum that no tax is a good tax.
Burton has also worked on campaigns, but this year marks a much bigger entrance into politics. He and his daughter, Kristi Burton, are heading the signature- gathering effort to put the "human life" amendment on the Colorado ballot in 2008.
The amendment, if passed, would give a fertilized egg legal status as a person under certain sections of the state constitution. It would raise questions about the permissibility of abortions and even certain forms of birth control.
Burton says his 20-year-old daughter is taking the lead role with the amendment, while he is seeking the county commission post to provide "some strong conservative leadership."
The 49-year-old Burton says he shares many ideals with Bruce but, if chosen, would look for ways to work more closely with other members. He scoffs at the suggestion of a county budget crisis.
"I think almost every government entity is very inefficient," he says.
Bull thinks the county's woes result from commissioners who have become detached from the functions they are supposed to oversee.
"I don't think most of the commissioners up there have any idea what they are talking about," he says.
Bull says commissioners should ask more questions of staff members; he feels his supervisory skills from years as a school administrator in Colorado and Oklahoma have prepared him for the task.
Bull, a 69-year-old originally from Oklahoma, served a two-year Army stint in the 1960s before moving to Colorado more than 20 years ago. He has worked on several campaigns and has had state and local GOP leadership roles.
Like the other two candidates, Bull says he agrees with Bruce on many issues, but would lead with a different style.
"I'm not Doug Bruce," he says. "I am a conservative Republican."
Lathen, who turns 40 today, has been gearing up for a commission bid since early this year, and insists she's a natural.
"I just really love what the [Board of County Commissioners] does," she says.
The most visible thing the board has done in recent weeks is to slash the budget to make up for lagging sales-tax revenue.
Lathen says she can't see the sense of shutting county buildings and shifting many employees to working four 10-hour days.
"It's just not a solution," she says. But she adds that when it comes to raising taxes, "I will not sit in a position of influence and ask the people for more money."
That leaves open the possibility that a tax-increase initiative will gain momentum on its own.
Lathen is no stranger to politics, having started her fourth term on the El Paso County Republican Party's executive committee. She has worked on local and national campaigns.