Crawford, Paonia await final election results

By Tamie Meck


Two municipal elections in the North Fork area remain undecided while Delta County election officials await signature verifications on a handful of ballots.

As of Tuesday, some signature cures had been received, but final results were still in limbo, said Delta County election supervisor Rene Loy-Maas.

In Paonia, three board seats were up for re-election. Unofficial results show Karen Budinger as the front-runner over the other eight candidates, with 219 votes. Bill Bear, the only lifelong town resident, received 211 votes.

In considering who will fill the third seat, Bill Brunner receiving an unofficial 177 votes and Chelsea Bookout received 174 votes. According to Loy-Maas, seven ballots remain uncounted while they await signature verification. Loy said verification request letters were mailed out April 6 and the county has until April 13 to verify all signatures.

With final canvassing and election certification scheduled for this Friday, the current board remained in place for the regular meeting Tuesday night. The town will schedule a special meeting for next week to swear in the three new trustees and new mayor Charles Stewart, with the date and time to be posted on the town's website.

Stewart, who ran unopposed for mayor, received 310 votes. He currently serves as mayor pro tempore and a vacancy will produce another open seat on the board. Once he and the trustees are sworn in, the new council will determine who will fill that seat.

In Crawford, the four newly elected trustees weren't sworn in at the April 6 meeting while the town awaits the official outcome in the mayor's race between Wanda Gofforth with 69 votes and Gill Saunders with 67 votes. The three unverified signatures aren't enough to change who will serve on the council. Two of the seats will be filled by Tammy Broughton, who unofficially garnered 113 votes, and John Paton with 103 votes. Chriss Watters and incumbent Hetty Todd tied with 91 votes. Because one of the seats is for a two-year term, the town decided to wait for the official election results before swearing in trustees in order to determine if Todd or Watters will serve the two-year term.

The swearing in is tentatively set for the regularly scheduled April 20 work session.

In Hotchkiss, the seven unverified ballot signatures weren't enough to change the outcome of the council election. Incumbent Larry Jakubiak was the clear winner with 201 votes, or just over 22 percent of the votes. John Marta and James Roberts were also elected to four-year terms, and Mary Hockenbery was elected to a two-year term after receiving 137 votes. Patrick Webb received 128 votes and Ralph Sandmann II received 94 votes.

Hotchkiss will swear in trustees Thursday night at the regularly scheduled monthly meeting. The meeting was originally scheduled to be held at Hotchkiss High School, but due to scheduling conflicts, will be at Town Hall, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Hotchkiss High School student council will join trustees at the front table.

Question 2A asking residents to legalize recreational sales, manufacturing and testing of cannabis products was defeated, 156-133, or 53.98-46.02 percent. Ballot question 2B to approve medicinal cannabis lost, 129-161, or roughly 11 percent. More than 64 percent of voters approved question 3C to allow taxation of marijuana sales.

Hockenbery, who petitioned to have the issue placed on the ballot, said she wasn't discouraged by the results, and believes that high voter turnout was in part due to the issue being on the ballot. "As far as the democratic process is concerned, it was a success," said Hockenbery.

Trustee Tom Wills was also a proponent of the ballot issue and said voter turnout was the highest it's been in at least the last 25 years and was one of the positive outcomes of the election. He joked that if it were placed on the ballot for every election that more people would come out to vote.

As far as the overall results, "I'm not terribly disappointed," said Wills.

Wills and Hockenbery expressed disappointment at the loss of future revenues for the town. "In two years, I'm assuming, we'll wish we had it even more," said Wills.

Hockenbery was also disappointed that question 2B to approve medicinal cannabis failed. Throughout the campaign she said she became aware of many local medical marijuana patients who will still have to drive over an hour to get their medicine.

Hockenbery said she still believes that Hotchkiss, with its agricultural potential, is a good area for cannabis-related businesses to thrive in. Unless the government shuts the industry down, it will continue to grow as it becomes approved in more states, said Hockenbery. Based on that and the number of "yes" votes the issue received, it's likely the issue will be placed on the ballot again in the future.