By Leslie Jorgensen
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
The Larimer County Republican Party Assembly will draw 750 delegates and 750 alternates to nominate candidates on Saturday, April 3, at the Hilton Hotel in Fort Collins. The only suspenseful race is the contest between Republicans Carl Bruning and Justin Smith for county sheriff.
Larimer County Sheriff James Alderden held the position for 12 years, but is forced by term limits to retire. The winner of the race between Republicans Bruning and Smith will face the victor in the Democratic primary contest between Jay Harrison and Al Ohms, and independent candidate Dell Bean in the general election.
“It’s hard to get a gauge on that race. It’s conceivable that both candidates could make the 30 percent threshold to get on the primary ballot,” said Larimer County GOP Chair Larry Carillo.
Bruning is a business consultant with experience in emergency response to natural disasters such as floods and fires. A graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and former military pilot, Bruning vows to uphold the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights.
“I will defend the American dream and your rights to life, liberty, property, firearms and freedom,” pledged Bruning in a campaign statement.
His campaign platform includes assurances that he’ll be tough on illegal immigration, streamline the sheriff’s operations budget and refuse to enter concealed weapon permit holders into a statewide database.
Bruning encourages supporters to “Join the Posse.”
Smith is an 18-year veteran of the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office and has earned the highest rank of major. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and holds a master’s degree in criminal justice.
Countering a rumor that he’s soft on Second Amendment rights, Smith issued a statement to supporters.
“The TRUTH about my stance is that I have been a firearms owner and a personal advocate for the Second Amendment rights of others from a very young age,” he said. “I grew up plinking cans with a .22 rifle and bird hunting with my first 20-gauge (shotgun). I took an oath to uphold the Constitution more than 20 years ago and I have upheld that oath every day since.”
Smith served on Alderden’s citizens committee to develop and implement the county’s policy on permits to carry concealed weapons. He teaches the Bill of Rights to students at Colorado State University and opposed the state university’s ban on carrying concealed weapons, despite legal permit holders, on campus.
His campaign platform includes running the county jail and sheriff’s operations in a cost-efficient manner, develop and utilize high technology, and communicate and coordinate with other law enforcement agencies.
Carillo said the county sheriff’s race, so far, is the only contest. He anticipates delegates nominating District 1 Larimer County Commissioner Lew Gaiter for election. In January, Gaiter was appointed to fill the seat vacated by former county commissioner Kathay Rennels, who accepted a position at CSU.
Gaiter describes himself as “a Ronald Reagan Republican… a person with experience working inside the Larimer County government.”
The GOP candidate faces at least one opponent in the county commissioner race. Former Larimer County Democratic Party Chair Adam Bowen was nominated last weekend at the county party assembly. Democratic opponent former Loveland Mayor Kathleen Gilliland fell slightly short of winning the required 30 percent delegate vote to be placed on the ballot. Gilliland has the option of petitioning onto the ballot.
State Sen. Kevin Lundberg is assured nomination in the Republican Senate District 15 assembly. Lundberg will face the winner of a Democratic primary contest between attorney Rich Ball and CSU professor Torsten Eckstein.
Republican House District 49 delegates will likely nominate Rep. B.J. Nikkel, R-Loveland. Nikkel will square off against Democratic candidate Karen Stockley in the general election. Stockley is a small business owner in Fort Collins and Thompson R2J School Board member.
No Republicans have emerged to challenge state Rep. Brian DelGrosso in House District 51. In August 2009, DelGrosso was appointed to fill the seat vacated by former state Rep. Don Marostica.
DelGrosso, a Loveland businessman who owns three Domino’s Pizza restaurants, won the appointment over two competitors, Tom Buchanan and Kevan McNaught. In the general election, DelGrosso will face Democratic challenger Bill McCreary, former president of the Thompson School District Board of Education.
Carillo said that several Republicans in House District 52 have expressed interest in challenging Democratic state Rep. John Kefalas. Regardless of how many Republicans are interested in running, Carillo said that the district assembly will likely pick one candidate to avoid a primary.
In House District 53, Republican Dane Brandt hopes to win the nod to run against Democratic state Rep. Randy Fischer. Brandt, who heads a property management company, ran for the Legislature in another district about 20 years ago.
Over the past 20 years, Larimer County’s political climate has weathered moderate to hard right Republican trends. Currently, 36 percent of the voters are unaffiliated, 35 percent are Republicans and 26 percent are Democrats.