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A look back at Election ’08 in Jeffco

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By AJ Vicens

Many people have commented in the last week that they're happy the election is over, regardless of the result. But as the 2008 election is relegated to the history books, a few items in Jefferson County merit mention:

• Jefferson County saw a record number of ballots cast in the 2008 general election, according to Josh Liss, the county's deputy of elections.

The previous record was about 272,000 ballots cast, and even without counting provisional ballots, the county had already processed 291,176 ballots.

"It was a big election," Liss said.

Even though it was big, there were few problems, and few people had to wait more than about 20 minutes to cast a ballot on Election Day.

"We're very happy with the way it turned out," Liss said. "Over 83 percent of Jefferson County voters cast their ballots before Election Day. I think that helped our polling place voters get in and out more quickly."

• Jefferson County Judge Judy Archuleta was the only judge on the ballot in the state who did not earn retention.

The Colorado Commissions on Judicial Performance issued a "do not retain" recommendation for Archuleta in August. The commissions wrote in a report on 104 judges statewide up for retention: "Words similar to ‘poor people skills, bad demeanor, impatient, not friendly, rude, unsympathetic, belittling and harsh’ were used more than once in describing her. Multiple responders, including both attorneys and non-attorneys, stated that she had no strengths."

Archuleta, who could not be reached for comment after Nov. 4, said in the report: "I am rated highly for my judicial skills, knowledge of the law, efficient case management. I am known as a judge that imposes jail for individuals convicted of repeat drunk driving offenses. These offenders and the attorneys that defend them purposefully rate my service poorly."

Jeffco party chairs react to election

Dick Barkey, chair of the Jefferson County Democrats, and Renee Nelson, chair of the Jeffco GOP, reflected on their party's wins and losses Nov. 4.

In the House District 22 and 28 races, where incumbent Republicans held onto their seats, Barkey said voter registration was the problem.

"We have a huge disadvantage in our registration with the Democratic Party base," Barkey said. "We're making some gains, but it's a slow process."

Nelson said: "We are happy to maintain those seats, but we were hoping for a few others around the county."

In the race for district attorney — in which incumbent Republican Scott Storey squeaked out a victory against a woman who didn't campaign — Barkey said it should send a message.

"If I were Storey, I would take a look at that," Barkey said of the fact that Vicky Peters, Storey's Democratic opponent, almost defeated him without campaigning at all. Barkey said he respects Storey for doing a difficult but said he should rethink some of the issues he has in his office.

Nelson said it was a case of party-line voting.

"It was real interesting how people voted party-line," Nelson said. "To see how high a percentage of votes she got by doing nothing — that told us quite a bit."

Barkey said that he wished the Democratic Party could have done more to get Sue Windels elected to the District 1 county commissioner seat. As for the District 2 race, where Democrat Jason Bane was edged by incumbent Kevin McCasky, Barkey said the third-party candidate was the problem.

"Clearly Jason's campaign was the victim of the third-party candidate," Barkey said. He said there should be an automatic runoff when no candidate earns more than 50 percent of the vote.

South Jeffco backs McCain

If South Jeffco sentiments were reflected thoughout the U.S., Arizona Sen. John McCain would be the president-elect, and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama would be headed back to the U.S. Senate to finish his first term.

South Jeffco voters supported the Republican presidential ticket by a two-thirds margin, but the county overall went blue.

"That's where our majority of people go out to vote," said Renee Nelson, chair of the Jeffco GOP. "We've pretty much lost the people up north, but we need to work to get them back."

Barkey said the party will continue to make inroads with younger voters in South Jeffco, but it is struggling to identify with voters over age 35. He said the party is making progress among some older voting groups.

"I think we'll see that continue," Barkey said. "The Republicans are in a bit of disarray."

Nelson said that McCain wasn't the first choice of many Jeffco Republicans, noting that former Massachussetts Gov. Mitt Romney won the county handily in the February caucuses. But Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin energized the base, and people came out to vote for McCain mostly because of her, he said.

Nelson said some of the losses in the county and the way the presidential race turned out has a silver lining for the Jeffco GOP.

"Since the election, my voice-mail has been full of people wanting to know how they can get the party back on track," Nelson said. "So it's been a bit of a motivating factor."

Contact AJ Vicens at aj@evergreenco.com, and check www.columbinecourier.com for updates and breaking news.