The Republican primary for the Montezuma County Board of Commissioners matches up Jim Candelaria with James Lambert. Candelaria was the choice of Republicans who participated in their precinct caucuses. Lambert petitioned onto the primary ballot after failing to make the cut at the county assembly.
Both are conservative in a county that elects conservatives; both have served their communities well. However, Candelaria has the broader and more forward-thinking view.
Responding to a questionnaire from the Journal, Lambert said his top priority would be preventing federal encroachment. That is a popular stance. Federal encroachment, however, is not the greatest challenge facing the county. Although many Montezuma County residents may wish the pattern of settlement in the West had not left vast swaths of land unclaimed, it’s hard to imagine what Montezuma County’s economy would look like now without federal participation.
Lambert wants to improve the relationship between the county and Cortez, presumably from the county’s side of the fence. He rightly sees transportation as a problem, and he would like to see more manufacturing here. Those are standard answers for anyone discussing economic development in Montezuma County; visionary solutions, however, have been hard to identify.
Candelaria prioritizes a healthy economy, and he speaks intelligently about concrete steps in that direction. He seems more willing to begin working forward from conditions as they are than to dream of some abstract, far-off future.
Lambert supports the current land-use code; as a builder, Candelaria is familiar with how it works. Land-use regulations are going to be a critical element of future development here. One person’s restrictions are his neighbor’s protections. A willingness to understand regulation in that way is essential to ensuring that Montezuma County is a good place for everyone to live and work. In recent years, the county has done a good job of common-sense zoning that minimizes the need for decisions on a case-by-case basis. The county needs a system that works for everyone. Candelaria is in a better position to understand that.
Lambert sets a high bar for justifying the expenditure of taxpayer money, and voters should appreciate that. Candelaria, however, is likely to better understand that some investments of public funds do pay off in a more solid economy and better quality of life for the constituency as a whole.
Both candidates understand the issues. For Lambert, the answers are framed in a specific political ideology. That is his right, and his belief system may be shared by many in the county. However, it is not shared by everyone, and constituents on the other end of the political spectrum deserve representation as well.
Candelaria is motivated more by practical concerns, and he will work toward practical solutions. He is a good listener and a good problem solver, and he is aware of what works elsewhere.
Both are strong candidates. Candelaria, however, is better equipped to lead Montezuma County in the 21st century, and to recognize that the county’s population and its needs have changed.