Commission race still too close to call

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133 votes separate Odom, Tighe with thousands of provisional ballots unrecorded

By Vicky Gits

More than a week after Election Day, the county commission race in District 2 between incumbent John Odom and challenger Casey Tighe remains undecided, with thousands of provisional ballots still unrecorded.

Odom led by 133 votes after more than 260,000 ballots had been counted in the race in the early hours of Nov. 7. But the county elections office had accepted between 7,300 and 7,500 provisional ballots on Election Day from voters whose eligibility was undetermined. Election officials had 14 days to determine if those ballots can be counted, said Jeffco Deputy of Elections Josh Liss.

The county also received approximately 2,000 mail-in ballots with missing signatures on the envelope, or with unmatched signatures on the ballot itself. And the elections office also was anticipating outstanding ballots from overseas military voters.

And if the margin remains that thin in the commission race when provisional and military ballots are recorded, state law will require a recount. An update will be provided Thursday, and a final tally no later than Nov. 21, when it will be known whether a recount is needed.

Meanwhile, despite the frantic effort to court Jeffco voters with multiple appearances by the presidential ticket in the final months before the election, the Republicans’ hoped-for surge of anti-Obama sentiment failed to materialize.

Instead, the Democrats won not only the presidency, but a number of key races inside Jefferson County.

High Timber Times columnist Rob Witwer, a former GOP legislator who represented Conifer, summed up the outcome in Jeffco.

“There’s no reason that strong Republican candidates can’t win in Jefferson County,” Witwer said. “(State Rep. Cheri) Gerou is proof of that. But this was a year when the down-ticket Republicans were affected by the big-picture trends. If Romney had done more strongly, candidates like Lang Sias, Rick Enstrom and Amy Attwood (all Republicans who lost races in the county) would have done better.

“Dems continue to have an organizational advantage. That’s a big part of it,” he said. “This year the Republican Party’s brand was negatively affected by candidates like (Richard) Mourdock in Indiana and (Todd) Akin in Missouri, who made insensitive comments about rape. We are kidding ourselves if we don’t think that has consequences. Cheri is proof that strong candidates who know what they are talking about are going to be rewarded by voters.”

In the run-up to the election, it seemed that every time one presidential campaign staged a Denver area media event, the other campaign came back with even bigger fanfare. Both camps were determined to win over Jeffco, which was considered a swing county in a key swing state, with nearly equal numbers of Republicans, Democrats and independents.

Mitt Romney gave two speeches in Jefferson County, one at the fairgrounds in August and another at D’Evelyn High School on Sept. 23. Ann Romney visited Hudson Gardens on Oct. 3, and Romney and Paul Ryan packed Red Rocks Amphitheater on Oct. 23.

Romney came back Nov. 3 to rally support at Comfort Dental Amphitheater in Englewood.

Between August and November, President Barack Obama came to Golden, Boulder and Aurora.

In the end the Democrats prevailed, with Obama gaining 51 percent of the Jefferson County vote and Romney landing 47 percent. The turnout reached 73 percent of the total registered voters and 93 percent of active voters, according to the Jeffco elections website, Votejeffco.com, based on 302,580 total ballots cast.

About 80 percent of the electorate voted by mail ballot, but the elections office still had polling places at 175 locations. Based on a spot check of three locations, the process was orderly and lines were nonexistent.

Key local races

(numbers based on final, unofficial Election Day results from the Jeffco Elections Division)

• County Commissioner, District 2

John Odom  (R)

Casey Tighe (D)

To be decided

With all precincts reporting as of Election Day, incumbent County Commissioner Odom was ahead by 133 votes, with 131,940 to Casey Tighe’s 131,807. If Odom wins, it means the Board of Commissioners will continue to constitute an exclusively Republican group of three. GOP incumbent Faye Griffin ran unopposed, and Republican Don Rosier’s seat was not up for election.

Although inexperienced politically, Tighe brought a legal background and a career as CDOT auditor to the race. Odom, a Republican who was appointed to fill the seat vacated by former commissioner Kevin McCasky, had the benefit of incumbency and a background as owner of a small business.

Tighe had promised to keep a closer eye on county spending and communicate more with constituents. Odom had pledged to continue his efforts to keep the county’s fiscal house in order and stressed his belief in private property, small government and entrepreneurism.

The rivals clashed over the wisdom of maintaining a county-level audit committee, which Tighe chaired for five years until the county commissioners disbanded it in 2011.

After the election Tighe gave credit for his impressive showing to hard work and great volunteers.

“We had a message that resonated with the public,” he said. “We talked about more community involvement, changing the tone to be more cooperative and collaborative, paying more attention to the local community. I knocked on a lot of doors and talked to a lot of voters.”

House District 25

Cheri Gerou (R)

Lorna Idol (D)

Republican Cheri Gerou of Evergreen won her third term as state representative from House District 25 after winning 25,226 votes, or 55 percent, in a race against Democratic challenger Lorna Idol, who had 40 percent, or 18,539 votes.

Gerou had the benefit of being an expert on state finances and the chair of the Joint Budget Committee. Idol, an educational consultant who specialized in collaborative decision-making, is a university professor with a research background.

An architect who has lived in Evergreen for 20 years, Gerou first was elected in 2008, replacing Rep. Rob Witwer, who decided not to seek re-election.

As a result of reapportionment, Gerou’s geographic territory expanded to the southeast to include an area east of C-470 and bounded by Quincy Avenue, Simms Street and the Meadows Golf Club.