There were two saving graces for Democrats, who gathered at Charlie Dwellington’s on Tuesday night to socialize and follow the election results.
One of those saving graces was that a busy political night in the county, state and country was drowned out by the bar’s weekly Tuesday Night Jam, with many in attendance dancing and swinging to blues music played by a live band.
The other saving grace was that statewide election results were projected onto the south wall of the bar and each time the results went past the race for Colorado’s 3rd congressional district, hopes only grew that Democrat Adam Frisch would defeat incumbent Republican Lauren Defeating Boebert would lead, as Frisch continued, deep into the night.
Those who were cautiously optimistic that Frisch could win grew more confident as the evening wore on, while those braced for the disappointment of another Boebert win gradually began to believe.
Otherwise it was an evening of defeat acceptance for the local Democrats.
David C. Stahlke, the Democratic nominee for the state senator seat for District 7, fell to Republican Janice Rich, with Rich receiving 49,348 votes to Stahlke’s 21,521. Most votes for both candidates were cast in Mesa County, where Rich received 69.5% of the vote (47,042) and Stahlke 30.5% (20,636).
Damon Davis, the Democratic nominee for state representative for District 55, also fell to a Republican with Rick Taggart. Taggart received 63.1% of the Mesa County vote (23,713) and Davis received 36.9% (13,873).
“I congratulate Rick. It’s my first choice and he’s an experienced and well-known man,” Davis told The Daily Sentinel.
“I made some rookie mistakes and you can’t do that to a guy like Rick. He’s a solid Republican candidate and that makes him harder to run against, but I hope he will do a good job and have faith that he will do what is best for Mesa County. I wish him the best of luck in his position.”
Tucked under his signature cowboy hat, Davis explained what his “rookie mistakes” were and what he would do differently if he ran for public office again.
“Start earlier. Get on the internet earlier,” Davis said.
“Watch out for ads. Get things done earlier. Have more connection with the voters. I would like to do more events and outreach with voters. Those are some of the big things, and there’s a lot of the little things, like how to order yard signs, where to order yard signs, where to order maps, where to order advertising. Lots of little details that you don’t think about until you do it.”
ANOTHER GOP COMMISSIONER Charlie Pink was the Democratic nominee for the role of county commissioner for District 2, but he fell to Republican Bobbie Daniel by almost the same margin as Davis lost to Taggart.
Daniel received 63.9% of the vote (42,936) and Pink received 36.1% (24,224).
“I have best wishes for Bobbie,” Pink said. “I think she will make a good district commissioner. I got to know her over the past few months and I wish her all the best.”
Pink was not surprised by the result and was proud to have received up to 38% of the vote at one point in the evening’s vote count.
“We drove a good race,” said Pink. “We were at 38% and I think the last[Democrat]who ran for that position got 31%, so we did better. I’m proud of what we’ve done. I think what we did was noble.”
The last Democrat on the Mesa County Commission was Doralyn Genova, who was elected in 1989 and served four terms.
According to a Daily Sentinel story about Genova, when she died in August 2018, there was a brief period when the commission consisted of all Democrats during one of Genova’s terms.
Jeffrey Waldon ran for County Clerk and Recorder against Republican Bobbie Gross and Libertarian Robert Ballard. Waldon received 28.6% of the vote (19,330), losing to Gross, who received 65.6% of the vote (44,287). Ballard received 5.8% of the vote (3,883).
“In America, it’s one person, one vote. We settle our differences at the ballot box in free and fair elections,” Waldon said.
“Our race had surprisingly little publicity and few opportunities for us to advertise or debate together. I think all three of us acted with dignity and grace, we had an idea campaign and we talked about our vision for this office.
“Most importantly, there were no mud fights or personal attacks, everyone was polite and professional – a paragon of political campaigning – and for that I want to say ‘thank you’ to both of them.”
Waldon also offered Gross “sincere congratulations” and wished her good luck as a Mesa County Clerk.
WHERE DO THEM GO FROM HERE? Mesa County also leaned Republican in other major state races.
Republican Heidi Ganahl defeated incumbent Democrat Jared Polis in the Mesa County gubernatorial election, receiving 54.2% of the vote (37,457) versus Polis’ 42.5% (29,371).
Joe O’Dea was also successful in Mesa County’s run for US Senator, receiving 56.2% of the county’s vote (38,734) versus incumbent Democrat Michael Bennet’s 40% (27,594).
Pam Anderson also overtook an incumbent Democrat in the Mesa County secretary of state race, earning 56.3% of the vote (38,452) compared to Jena Griswold’s 40.3% ballot (27,542).
Likewise, Republican John Kellner received 58.1% of the Mesa County Attorney General’s race, overtaking incumbent Democrat Phil Weiser, who received 39.3% of the county’s vote (26,596).
Polis, Bennet, Griswold and Weiser were ultimately victorious statewide, but the 2022 election results have the Mesa County Democratic Party asking the question again, “Where do we go from here?”
Davis said there are signs that Mesa County Democrats are making gains, but there is still work to be done before the local elections become competitive.
“I think some of us have done a little better than we’ve done in the past, but we’re still lagging behind,” Davis said.
“I think one of the things that we need is debriefing and learning from each election, putting in place some protocols for people to run, some onboarding for candidates so new candidates don’t learn the same lessons over and over again . Why reinvent the wheel? I think we need to look at which state candidates have been successful, which ones we might want to emulate and which ones aren’t… It’s a constant learning process.”
Pink also said there are positives from his campaign that future Democratic candidates in Mesa County can build on.
“Mesa County’s demographics are changing and we need to build on that,” Pink said. “We need to energize people and encourage more people like me to go out and run. We may not have won the race, but we’re succeeding in what we’re trying to do, and that’s getting our name out there and getting an idea that we have a balanced system in Mesa County.
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