Term-limit extension likely on back burner after defeat by voters

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By AJ Vicens

Jeffco voters soundly rejected the idea of increasing term limits so elected officials could run for three consecutive terms, but the proposal may not be dead.

"In a couple years I might bring this back in a different form and do a better job of it," said Jefferson County District Attorney Scott Storey, the originator of the latest term-limit extension effort in Jeffco. "I never close the door on anything I do."

Storey led the way in getting a term-limit extension on the ballot, making the case earlier this year that law enforcement positions like his and the sheriff's require a level of expertise and experience that takes more than eight years to fully develop.

The proposal initially met with resistance from other elected officials in the county, who felt that the district attorney shouldn't be the only elected official to ask voters for an extension of term limits.

Commissioner Kevin McCasky and Storey engaged in a heated exchange over the matter during a May 14 meeting of the county's elected officials. Storey accused McCasky of blocking him from the commissioners' agenda to formally propose the ballot question, and McCasky said voters should decide on term limits for all elected officials, not just the district attorney and the sheriff.

Allowing every elected official in Jeffco besides the county commissioners to run for three consecutive terms instead of the current two was broken into two questions on the Nov. 3 ballot. The district attorney's position was listed by itself, and voters rejected that proposal by nearly 20 percentage points, with 58 percent of voters saying no and 41 percent approving.

The question dealing with the rest of the elected officials was a little closer, with voters rejecting it by a count of 56 percent to 43 percent.

Jeffco Clerk and Recorder Pam Anderson said she's not all that surprised the term-limit extensions didn't pass.

"I don't necessarily oppose extending term limits, but I wasn't sure that it was the right time to ask the voters," Anderson said. "I think things like the economy took more of the forefront."

She noted that 53 Colorado counties have approved term-limit extensions, but clearly Jeffco voters weren't ready to give their approval.

"I think people are seeing some pros and cons to term limits playing out at the statehouse and local level, but clearly Jeffco voters don't want that at this time," Anderson said, adding that the defeat likely spells the end of the term-limit discussion for a while.

"I wouldn't expect to see it for a long time," Anderson said.

Storey said that although he's not closing the door on bringing the idea back before his term ends in 2011, he's OK with last week's result.

"My goal was to get it on the ballot and to allow voters to weigh in. They did, and I'll live by that," Storey said. He added that he'll make the most of his three remaining years in office, and will focus on strengthening his family violence unit and supporting the prosecutor assigned to the West Metro Drug Task Force. He plans to start an elder abuse unit.

There were 94,796 ballots cast in Jeffco, according to the Jefferson County clerk and recorder’s election division, out of the county's 334,085 eligible voters. The 28 percent voter turnout in Jeffco was on par with the other Denver area counties, which ranged between 25 and 35 percent.

"There was a little lower turnout than we would have liked," said Josh Liss, Jeffco's deputy of elections. "But it's pretty typical for an odd-year election."

Liss said he wished more people would vote in odd-year elections because they tend to be more about local issues.

"It's sad in some ways because odd years are really your local elections," Liss said. "They typically deal with mayors, city council members and the school board. In many cases it's the local elections that affect you most directly."

Contact the Columbine Courier news desk at emile@evergreenco.com, and check www.columbinecourier.com for updates and breaking news.