Know before you go
Avoid panic at the polls with the Telegraph’s voting cheat sheet

It’s one thing for a voter to get him or herself to the polls, and it’s another to understand what to do once one gets there. Sure, there are the early voters, people who meticulously study the League of Women Voters’ election handbook and approach the ballot like a placement test. But then there’s the rest of us, who wait until 5 p.m. Tuesday to entertain thoughts of heading to our precinct, if only we could remember where it is.

This article is for the rest of us – think of it as a handy voting cheat sheet. Not that we condone cheating of any kind – especially when it comes to the sanctity of American politics and the democratic system – it’s just that sometimes, facing all those fill-in-the-dots can be a little overwhelming. While some of the issues may be no-brainers, voters can always count on a few obscure “judge retentions” or referendums to throw them for a loop. But now you can rest assured, knowing you did not unwittingly put a pathological liar on the Supreme Court or vote to enact a Charles Manson public holiday.

Here are some of the biggies on this year’s ballot:

U.S. Senate

The players:
-Wayne Allard/Republican (incumbent): Elected to the Senate in 1996, this 58-year-old veterinarian from Fort Collins counts playing the bagpipes and flying model airplanes among his hobbies. His priorities are to balance the budget, reduce the national debt, cut taxes and build up national defense. He does not support same-sex couple adoption and favors overturning Roe v. Wade.

-Tom Strickland/Democrat: Although he’s Colorado’s chief federal prosecutor by day, Strickland could very well double as an L.L. Bean poster boy in his off-time, fishing, hunting, camping, hiking and skiing. Given a chance, he said he would like to crack some corporate heads over the latest rash of scandals and protect innocent people’s pensions. He also would champion the cause of affordable health care and prescription drugs. He supports same-sex couple adoptions and Roe v. Wade.

-Douglas “Dayhorse” Campbell/American Constitution Party: We were not sure if “Dayhorse” is Campbell’s god-given name or just his attempt to be funny. We were similarly confused about some of his admitted past times: square dancing and singing. Regardless of his humorous side, the hard-line constitutionalist takes a no-nonsense approach to politics. First item on his agenda would be to abolish “oppressive” income taxes and knock the federal government down to size. He does not support same-sex couple adoption and favors overturning Roe v. Wade.

-Rick Stanley/Libertarian: This 48-year-old Denver businessman is probably the most unique candidate on the list and the only one to include his astrological sign (cancer) on his Web site. He says he never had time for college but does have enough to pursue a varied list of passions, including basketball, rock ’n’ roll, history and art. Stanley, who is for legalization of pot, will have his work cut out for him if elected, including exposing the tyranny and treasonous acts of elected officials. He supports same-sex couple adoptions and Roe v. Wade.

- John Heckman/Concerns of People Party: There was little information on this obscure candidate or his political preference except that he seems to be a stalwart candidate: He previously ran for the Senate in 1990 and 1998 and for U.S. Rep in 1994.

How we’ll vote: While a pro-pot candidate is tempting, some of Stanley’s other attributes scare us. We chose a more middle of the road approach with Strickland. Besides, wouldn’t you rather have an elected official who listens to the Stones and Bob Dylan than Allard who listens to the Oak Ridge Boys and Glenn Miller.

U.S. Representative - District 3

The players:
-Scott McInnis/Republican (incumbent): This former cop/lawyer from Glenwood is vying for his sixth 2-year term. In his free time, the Fort Lewis College graduate likes to listen to country music and hike or jog, although not necessarily all at the same time. His top priorities are to preserve water, reduce taxes and protect our “multiple-use tradition,” which likely will include passage of his Healthy Forests bill. Although a Republican, he does not support overturning Roe v. Wade but does support a war in Iraq.

-Denis Berckefeldt/Democrat: Calling himself the “accidental candidate” (he wasn’t even present when nominated), this assistant to Senate Majority Leader Bill Thiebaut (D-Pueblo) has opted to go the uncampaign route, with no designs on actually winning. Rather, he said he is running on principle, giving non-McInnis fans an option. Despite his lack of a platform, he does have some views, particularly on universal health care, an end to tax cuts to the rich and an opposition to war in Iraq. When not uncampaigning, he enjoys fishing and golf.

- J. Brent Shroyer/Libertarian: This businessman and retired teacher from Rangely pledges to stop the erosion of the Bill of Rights and return this nation to the course of liberty, whatever that means. It’s safe to say Shroyer likes guns and, if elected, would work to repeal “all of the recent gun-control acts.” In his free time, he enjoys the music of Brad Paisley (country, we presume), watching sports and travel.

-Gary Swing/Natural Law Party: This 34-year-old performing arts promoter from Denver wins our Utopian award. He’s got some nice ideals – namely abolishing nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and taking a stand for truth, justice and humanity – but at the end of the day, we’re not sure how far that’ll get him. Needless to say, he’s against war in Iraq and in favor of a Cesar Chavez state holiday.

How we’ll vote: Although he has a snowball’s chance in hell, our vote will go to Berckefeldt, if only for the fact that, as he points out, he’s neither a politician nor a lawyer.

Governor / Lt. Governor

The players:
-Bill Owens (incumbent)-Jane Norton/Republican: If Owens’ rally cry of “Expanding opportunity for all Coloradans” and his pledge for improved education, roads, health care and water conservation rings a bell, that’s because it’s the same thing he said four years ago. Owens, who graduated from Austin State University and is a pal of George W.’s, touts his track record of reducing capital-gains, dividend and interest taxes. When not running the state, he dabbles in international affairs, Russian history and baseball.

Owens’ running mate, Grand Junction resident Norton, is director of the State Department of Health and when not working enjoys curling up with the Bible or People magazine.

Both candidates dance around the Roe v. Wade subject (“the governor cannot appoint U.S. Supreme Court justices”) and believe Colorado needs more dams.

-Rollie Heath-Bill Thiebaut/ Democrat: Although this 64-year-old Boulder executive and Army veteran has no formal political experience, Rollie likens running a state to running a business. In addition to rising through the ranks of a billion-dollar company, Heath says he has overseen more than 10,000 employees in his days. In addition to accusing the current governorship of coming “dangerously close to squandering our state’s future,” Health promises a rainy-day fund, more jobs, better health coverage, more involvement in schools and a long-term water plan. When not serving on any of a number of civic posts, Heath prefers the more sublime joys of picking wild asparagus and listening to Enya.

Heath’s running mate is Bill Thiebaut of Pueblo, a 16-year veteran in the Colorado House and Senate, the last two as Senate majority leader.

Both men support the Cesar Chavez holiday and Roe v. Wade. They do not believe Colorado needs more dams or that the Pledge should be required in public schools.

-Ronald Forthofer-Dan Winters/ Green: Another Glenn Miller fan, Forthofer would like to wrest control of the government from the hands of big money and focus on securing the American dream for all Coloradans, which includes healing our sick health-care system and cooling our warmed globe. He likes to spend his free time bicycling the countryside and noshing at the all-you-can-eat salad bar at Healthy Habits (at least until it closed). His running mate is 65-year-old computer-whiz retiree, Dan Winters.

Both support same-sex couple adoptions and Roe v. Wade, but do not back more dams or the death penalty.

- Ralph Shnelvar-Desiree Hackett Hickson/Libertarian: Freedom from an oppressive government is Shnelvar’s first and foremost goal. When not fighting oppression, the 51-year-old Boulderite enjoys following his favorite sport organization, the Pakistani cricket team. His running mate is a 32-year-old mother of three and small-business owner.

The two vary on some of their views. While Hickson does not support overturning Roe v. Wade, Shnelvar does, although from a purely constructionist standpoint, he says. And whereas Shnelvar supports the death penalty, Hickson does not.

How we’re voting: Although we were almost swayed by Owen’s professed passion for Journey, the fact remains he has done little to deliver on his last campaign promises – unless you consider more confusing, bureaucratic testing an improvement. Our votes go with Heath.

State Senator - District 6

The players:
-Jim Isgar/Democrat (incumbent): Taking over for former Sen. Jim Dyer, who left for a post on the Public Utilities Commission but can still be spotted haunting the City Market coffee cart, Isgar has been in office for little more than a year. A rancher from Hesperus, Isgar is a mix of staunch Democrat (his political role model is JFK) and down-home farm boy (his favorite restaurant is his wife, Brenda’s, kitchen).

Isgar says he sees himself as the protector of West Slope interests, namely water, from water hungry Front Rangers and California. With the tight budget the state is facing, he also believes it is important to protect families, children and the elderly – “people who don’t have a lot of voice” – from program cuts. He also feels there is a need to get funding back for some programs Owens vetoed. When not rounding up doggies or votes, Isgar enjoys hunting and listening to folk singer Hoyt Axton. He does not support overturning Roe v. Wade and believes same-sex couples should be able to adopt and that Colorado needs more dams or rehabilitation of existing ones.

-Kay Alexander/Republican: Now in her third two-year term as representative for House District 58, Alexander has set her sights on the state Senate. A 30-year resident of the Western Slope, she is married to Ben, a former senator for District 6. The two live outside Montrose where they run a ranch. In her spare time, Alexander can be found reading, skiing and horseback riding. A lifelong rancher and farmer, she sees water storage as one of the major issues facing the state. She also has championed children and family causes, including passage of a bill that made faith healing illegal.

She opposes Amendment 31 and voted to retain the Pledge of Allegiance in classrooms.

How we’re voting: Our vote goes with the hometown boy. We like a guy who’s not afraid to het hid hands dirty, yet still listens to folk music.
La Plata County commissioners

La Plata County Commissioner

-Sheryl Ayers/Republican: Born and raised in La Plata County, Ayers believes she is the right person to fill leaving commissioner Fred Klatt’s shoes. “We need to replace him with someone with common sense and fiscal responsibility; someone who will ask the hard questions and make the tough decisions,” said Ayers, an accountant, former teacher and recent grandmother.

Ayers said growth and water are the biggest concerns among residents, with oil and gas and environment close behind. She believes the Vallecito Water Co. may be the solution to water woes in the southeastern county but believes those on the Dry Side may have to wait for A-LP. She also believes water should be the determining factor in growth, favors new development that incorporates clustering and open space, and thinks transferable development rights need further study.
When not politicking, she is active with her church and the Marvel Grange and enjoys playing the piano and reading.

-Jean Walter/Democrat: Like her Republican counterpart and friend, Walter is also a La Plata County native and sees growth, water, and oil and gas as the biggest issues facing residents. A Fort Lewis College grad, and manager of the city’s human resources department, Walter would like to see a long-term water plan put into place as well as stricter land-use codes. She also thinks special attention should be paid to maintaining as much agricultural land as possible.

How we’re voting: Although we think both women have similar stances on the issues, our vote goes to Ayers, who was the only commissioner candidate who bothered to call us back.

La Plata County sheriff

Though transvestism and kidnapping in New Mexico is no longer a component of the race for La Plata County Sheriff, it has been a hot one with write-in candidate Steve O’Neil leveling numerous allegations, including domestic abuse, against incumbent Duke Schirard.

-Duke Schirard/Republican (incumbent): Schirard is seeking his third four-year term, buoyed by his heroics and endless work during the summer of wildfire. Schirard has worked in local law enforcement for the last 26 years and as Sheriff for the last eight. He says his record speaks for itself.

“In the last eight years, we’ve managed to solve and successfully prosecute every major crime that’s occurred in La Plata County. I think with the job we’ve done at the Sheriff’s Office, we should be allowed to continue.”

Having won 85 percent of the vote during the Republican primary in August, Schirard is entering the election with some confidence. “I’m just looking forward to the election being over so I can get back to my job,” he said.

-Steve O-Neil/Republican (write-in): O’Neil moved to La Plata County in 1997 after working as a New York state trooper for more than 20 years. O’Neil advocates saving money by keeping non-violent criminals out of jail and monitored at home. He also is a proponent of the Iron Horse Motorcycle Rally, which Schirard has traditionally opposed. He adds that he’s in favor of an open Sheriff’s Office.

“I’m honest, hard-working and open-minded,” he said. “If there are some better ideas out there and they’ll improve the Sheriff’s Office, I’m willing to listen.”

O’Neil is optimistic, in spite of coming up two signatures short of qualifying for the ballot in the first place.

How we’re voting: We’re with Duke, the man’s record speaks for itself. And somehow, we question the openness and accessibility of O’Neil, whose unlisted phone number sent us into deep investigative mode.

Referred measures 3A and 3B

Also known as the school bond issue, these actually are a $84.5 million bond issue (3B) and a $2.4 million annual mill levy override (a tax increase in laymen’s terms). The $84 million will go toward school upgrades and renovations and, in the case of Riverview Elementary, a whole new school. Nearly 50 years of wear and tear has taken a toll, including corroded and leaky pipes, boilers at the breaking point, and wood floors sanded down to the nub. And did we mention the asbestos? This is all in addition to the overcrowding, which has forced classes into hallways, broom closets and anywhere students can be crammed in.

As for the $2.4 million a year, that will go toward paying teachers respectable salaries so they don’t have to flip burgers to make ends meet and cover upkeep of all the new equipment so leaky radiators won’t have to be fixed with duct tape.
For an owner of a $250,000 home, this translates into about $38 a year to cover the $2.4 million and another $18 or so to cover the bond issue. However, the amount owed over the bond issue is expected to increase over the life of the bond (about 20 to 25 years) and could reach as high as $94, making for a grand total of $132 a year for said homeowner.

Pros: Warm feeling knowing you are not contributing to the delinquency and endangerment of Durango’s future.

Cons: If you are lucky enough to own a $250,000 home, you could be out $132 a year, roughly the amount of loose change that falls between your couch cushions.

How we’re voting: We believe that children are the future.

The rest of the ballot

In addition to the hot-button issues and races, there are several routine elections that, to most voters, are about as interesting as watching paint dry and are typically voted along party lines. Before your eyes gloss over, we’ll give you a quick rundown of these items, the main players involved and, if it’s a referendum or amendment, some pros and cons, and, of course, how we plan to vote.
State races

Secretary of state: Donetta Davidson, R, (incumbent) faces Democrat challenger Anthony Martinez, a young entrepreneurial whipper-snapper from the San Luis Valley. In case you don’t know, the secretary of state is the state’s top election official (think the well-cosmeticized Katharine Harris from the Gore-Bush debacle in Florida.) Davidson has been in office since 1999 and has had no major scandals rock her tenure that we know of.
Also running: David Aitken, Libertarian, and Clyde J. Harkins, American Constitution Party

How we’re voting: We like Martinez, mostly because part of his Web site is in Espanol and he counts Romero’s in Silverton as one of his favorite restaurants.

State Treasurer: Mike Coffman, R, (incumbent) squares off against District 13 State Senator Terry Phillips, from the Denver-Boulder area. As most people know, the treasurer is in charge of holding the state’s purse strings.
Also running: Michael Sanchez, Reform Party, and Gaar Potter, Libertarian.

How we’re voting: We’d call Coffman a tight wad, but we’re afraid the ex-marine would come after us. Nevertheless, we’re voting for Phillips.

Attorney General: Defender of the title, Ken Salazar, D, (incumbent) takes on Marti Allbright, R, a Denver lawyer. During his first four years in office, Salazar overhauled the sex-offender registry and prosecuted those responsible (including the feds) for polluting dozens of sites across Colorado, including the Summitville Mine and Alamosa River watershed.
Also running: Dwight Harding, Libertarian, and Alison “Sunny” Maynard, Green.

How we’re voting: Although Allbright has a politically-promising last name, we cannot bring ourselves to vote for anyone who considers Secretary of Interior Gail Norton an idol. We’ll play it safe with Salazar.

State Board of Education: Pam Suckla, R, (incumbent), a rancher from the Dove Creek area, faces Christine Pacheco-Kovelaski, D, from Pueblo.

How we’re voting: It’s hard to get passionate about school board races, but for this one, we say go with your heart (which in our case is leftist in leaning).

State Senate District 6: It’s lonely at the top, and perhaps no one knows this better than Larson, the Cortez Republican who is running against a field of none.

How we’re voting: In a rare move, we’re going Republican on this one, and not just because we have to. We happen to like Larson because he is a regular guy who has mopped his fair share of floors and slopped green chili at the M&M – all that and he’s not afraid to pack heat.

County Races
Aside from sheriffs and commissioners, there is little to get excited about in La Plata County this year. Four of the seven races are uncontested, and no one will go near the open coroner spot with a 10-foot scalpel. Barring a bizarre act of God, expect Clerk and Recorder Linda Daley, Treasurer Edward Murray and Surveyor Larry Connolly to be sitting pretty come Tuesday night. As for the open coroner seat, it’s up to the county commissioners to fill that one.

There is a little flap over the county assessor spot, which has been held by Craig Larson, D, for 15 years. He is being challenged by Patty Dressel, unaffiliated, a fellow Assessor’s Office employee. The assessor has a sort of vague job description, something about determining the value of property for tax purposes, but we’re sure it’s very important nonetheless.

How we’re voting: We plan on voting for all the uncontested candidates (hey, at least someone has enough interest to run) as well as Larson, because we can’t think of a good reason not to.

These ones throw us every year, fortunately because most of us have little or no experience in the court system. Each year, judges coming up for retention are judged by a panel of their peers and given the “yea” or “ixnay” in a report. So unless you suffer form severe insomnia and wish to read said reports, we recommend taking their word for it. This year Colorado Supreme Court Justice Nathan Coats, and Court of Appeals judges John Dailey and Henry Nieto all passed, as did La Plata County Court Judge Martha Minot and Judge David Dickinson, of the 6th Judicial District.

State initiatives

Amendment 27/Campaign Finance: This proposed change to the state constitution would set limits on how much money can be contributed to candidates, offer incentives to candidates who stay within a preset limit and require disclosure of who pays for political ads. A similar measure was passed in 1996 but overruled by a federal court, leading legislators to install higher limits more to their liking.

Pros: Could reduce the impact of special interest groups on election outcomes and help level the financial playing field among newcomers and incumbents.
Cons: Could cause wealthy donors to find sneakier ways to funnel money to a campaign, giving candidates less control and special interests more. Also could mean candidates spend more time stumping for funds than the issues.

How we’ll vote: Although some charge this will limit basic freedoms, that of people being able to spend their money any way they damn well please, we think any step in separating politics and money is a step in the right direction.

Amendment 28/Mail-In Ballots: This proposal would require that most elections held after Jan. 1, 2005, be conducted via mail ballot. All signatures would be verified by election officials.

Pros: Convenience may increase the number of voters (in 2002, mail-in ballots had 9 percent more participation that traditional polling methods.)
Cons: Mail ballots are vulnerable to fraud and the whims of the U.S. Postal Service. Furthermore, the signature-verification process is sketchy and people voting by mail could be subject to peer pressure and coercion tactics.

How we’ll vote: We like the idea of being able to vote at leisure. People who worry about peer pressure and fraud are just paranoid ninnies.

Amendment 30/Election-Day Registration: Would abolish the current 29-day advance registration rule in favor of election-day registration starting in 2004.

Pros: May increase voter participation and streamline the confusing voting process. Also would make voting more accessible to new residents, college students and rural residents, who don’t get out often.
Cons: Allowing people to register on election day would increase opportunities for voter fraud, and once a ballot has been cast, that vote cannot be undone if fraud is discovered. Besides, Coloradans already have ample opportunities to register and election-day registration could prove expensive.

How we’ll vote: Voting should not be a hassle with random rules and waiting periods. We like the idea of instant gratification.

Amendment 31/English-Language Education: Would require all public school students, after a one-year English-immersion program, be placed in English-only classes. Parents could request a waiver from the school to exempt their children from the requirement.

Pros: Could keep English learners from falling behind, provide a consistent policy for teaching English learners and prevent segregation.
Cons: Could restrict control for parents who want their children to be bilingual, may dissuade schools from granting waivers for fear of legal ramifications and mandates an unreasonable timeframe for children to become fluent.

How we’ll vote: We don’t care how smart you are, you’re not going to learn English in a year, nor should you have to.

Referendum A/Exempt District Attorneys from Term Limits: Would reverse a 1994 initiative that limited political offices to two four-year terms.

Pros: Could allow residents to retain experience of D.A.s and may help smaller counties that have trouble attracting new candidates. Further, new D.A.s may find themselves in over their heads when taking over complex cases.
Cons: Term limits provide checks and balances and may provide a bigger, more varied pool of candidates. More competition could lead to more aggressive prosecution.

How we’ll vote: Yanking a prosecutor from a case midway through could have detrimental effects. If voters don’t like a particular office holder, let them enact term limits at the polls.

Referendum B/Public Ownership of Health Facilities: Would OK partnerships between local governments and private companies for the purpose of providing health care but governments would be prohibited from going into debt with such endeavors.

Pros: Could expand the types of services available in underserved areas while keeping existing facilities open and affordable.
Cons: Market demands should dictate where and what services are offered, and government partnerships risk tax dollars. Also, private companies may try to push their own agendas, based upon profit margins.

How we’ll vote: Any chance at expanded, affordable health care should be pounced upon.

Referendum C/Coroner Qualifications : Would establish qualification for county coroners.

Pros: Training would help ensure coroners have the know-how to determine the cause of death in an efficient manner.
Cons: Qualifications may narrow the pool of candidates and make filling the office more difficult, especially in rural area.

How we’ll vote: You mean qualifications aren’t already required?

Referendum D/Obsolete Constitutional Wording: Would remove expired provisions, strike obsolete references and remove a congressional term-limits provision deemed unconstitutional in 1998.

Pros: Would streamline an already crowded document by ridding it of irrelevant articles.
Cons: Would destroy the historical character of the document and make research difficult. Also would erase the stated will of the people in the off chance the term-limits decision is reversed.

How we’ll vote: While ridding the constitution of excess baggage is needed, we are a little suspicious of an ulterior motive here on the part of power-hungry legislators trying to sneak one by us.

Referendum E/Cesar Chavez Legal Holiday: Would designate March 31 as Cesar Chavez Day, a paid holiday for state employees, to honor the man who founded the United Farm Workers

Pros: Such an observance is important to Colorado’s Hispanics, who account for 17 percent of the population. Also, the holiday would bring Colorado to 11 paid holidays, the average in other states.
Cons: Another state holiday may pose a hardship on those who depend on state services. Also, the holiday will cost the state $477,000 in holiday wages, which would require cuts elsewhere in the budget.

How we’ll vote: Why not? Anyone who organized a boycott of lettuce on college campuses, or dorm food in general, is all right with us.




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