GOP challenger Steve Nowlin defeated incumbent Dennis Spruell by more than 700 votes in Tuesday’s Montezuma County sheriff’s race.
The unofficial results from the Republican primary were released about 70 minutes after the polls closed Tuesday. Nowlin earned 2,284 votes to Spruell’s 1,580 votes in Tuesday’s primary.
Upon receiving the news, a cheer went up from a crowd of Nowlin’s supporters at J Fargo’s microbrewery.
“It’s one more step closer, it’s a big step,” said the Dolores resident.
If elected in November, Nowlin said he would work to get the sheriff’s office “back on track.”
“We’ve got to start building the public’s trust from day one,” he said.
Nowlin will face write in candidate Mike Steele in November’s general election.
Asked in the spring by The Cortez Journal to list measures their administrations would take to uphold the First Amendment and guarantee the people’s right to know, Nowlin said he would meet with all media outlets to develop easy two-way communications.
Spruell said he would remain transparent with the media through his agency’s Facebook page.
He lived up to his campaign promise on Tuesday, informing the Journal he would post his reaction to the election results on his social media site.
“The election results came in, and I, Sheriff Spruell, was not re-elected,” he posted just after 8 p.m. Tuesday. “I would like to thank all my supporters, and wish the new sheriff who takes office in January the best of luck.”
Spruell also lost the GOP nod during the Republican caucus, but he garnered enough signatures to petition onto the ballot. Nowlin received 76 caucus votes compared with Spruell’s 36.
About 3,800 total ballots were cast in Tuesday’s election. In the last hour before the polls closed, about two dozen sealed primary ballots were dropped into a locked metal box at the Montezuma County Annex.
Montezuma County resident Adolph Gallegous was one of the last-minute voters. He went for Nowlin.
“Spruell should be out,” he said. “Spruell is spending too much money.”
Greg Koenig, another county resident, was also one of the last to cast a ballot on Monday. He made some last-minute changes, so he had to get a new ballot.
“It’s my civic duty to go out and vote,” said Koenig.
In the Montezuma County commissioner’s primary, residents chose James Lambert over Jim Candelaria, 2,028 to 1,740. Lambert also had to petition onto the ballot after losing the Republican caucus to Candelaria.
After the election, Lambert said he expected the race to be close.
“We’re not done yet by any means,” he said at Shiloh’s, surrounded by other GOP members.
Lambert joked at a Cortez Young Professional’s candidate forum earlier this year that he might not be the best-looking candidate, but he did have the time and experience required to serve.
Addressing the same forum, Candelaria said he would support economic development if elected, and cautioned residents that revenues from oil and gas exploration could one day be depleted.
Candelaria called the campaign a good and clean race.
“There’s a winner and a loser in every race,” he said at Shiloh’s.
Lambert will face write-in candidate Bill Utrup in November’s general election.
In the Montezuma County tax assessor’s race, Scott Davis received the nod over Cynthia Claytor, 2,195 to 1,302. Davis said he was relieved.
“I was pretty confident,” he said.
Leading up to Tuesday’s primary, both GOP candidates for tax assessor indicated they would not afford oil and gas giants, like Kinder Morgan, with any special tax treatment. The company is responsible for more than half the county’s total annual revenue.
An investigation and audit into Kinder Morgan’s self-reported assets in 2008 found the energy company underestimated its assets by $50 million. The company later paid an additional $2 million in taxes after losing an appeal with the Colorado Board of Assessment Appeals (CBAA).
In the Montezuma County coroner’s race, George Deavers defeated Michael Hall 2,423 to 1,232.
During the campaign, Deavers was the only candidate to support an initiative requiring coroners to hold accredited medical or scientific credentials, but added such a directive was unlikely because of limited funding.
“This is the case in Montezuma County,” said the county’s chief deputy coroner, a post he’s held for the past 11 years.
In the Montezuma County clerk’s race, Kim Percell ran unopposed in the GOP primary. She will face Judy Marquez in November’s general election.
Last year, the clerk’s office conducted more than 50,000 motor vehicle transactions, issued 840 birth and 1,794 death certificates and recorded 186 marriage licenses and eight civil unions.
Ernest Maness was the lone candidate who qualified in the Montezuma County surveyor’s race, and Sherry Dyess was the lone candidate for Montezuma County treasurer.