Montezuma County Sheriff Dennis Spruell did not earn enough delegate votes during the Republican General Assembly Friday night to initially make it on to the party’s primary election ballot.
Spruell lost out to challenger Steve Nowlin, who garnered 76 votes to Spruell’s 36 votes during the ballot procedure.
Sheriff candidate Diane Fox attracted 32 delegate votes, also not enough to make the ballot. Candidates needed 30 percent of the votes – 44 votes of the 146 delegates – to be placed on the ballot.
However, Spruell and Fox can petition to get on the ballot by collecting enough required signatures by March 31.
More than 200 Republican loyalists filled the hall at the Montezuma County annex to vote in their preferred candidates for the June 24 Republican primary.
Because there is so far no Democratic challenger, the sheriff race will most likely be decided during the Republican primary.
Nowlin, a career cop and criminal investigator, will top the Republican ballot. He has been a Cortez police officer and a Montezuma sheriff’s deputy, and spent 19 years as an officer and criminal investigator with the Colorado State Patrol.
“I will relentlessly pursue criminals, be a leader with integrity and work with citizens and agencies,” Nowlin said. “I want to bring back public trust, because without that you cannot prevent crime and protect citizens.”
During his remarks, Spruell pointed out his successes, and promised to continue leading as a “Constitutional Sheriff.”
“It is a function of the sheriff to uphold the U.S. Constitution,” he said, adding that resisting “the encroachment of the federal government” is part of the job.
He said that he ramped up a pretrial services program that has reduced jail crowding, which prevented a costly jail expansion. He also noted that he has increased deputies on duty, and replaced an aging fleet of vehicles.
Diane Fox said her extensive law enforcement background and experience with youth as a school resource officer would make her a good sheriff.
She said it was time for accountability in the sheriff’s race.
“I will lead without ego and attack problems, not people,” Fox said. “I have experience as a police officer, I worked in detention, investigations, records, and as a 911 dispatcher.”
For county commissioner, candidate Jim Candelaria received the most votes, at 61, and will top the ballot. He beat out James Lambert, 43 votes, and Donnie Tanner, 42 votes, who will both have to petition onto the Republican primary ballot.
Both county assessor candidates William Scott Davis, 94 votes, and Cynthia Claytor, 49 votes, garnered enough votes to make the ballot.
County coroner candidates George Deavers and Michael Hall also both earned enough votes to make the ballot, with 72 votes each.