Ertel, Findley easily win GOP primary races

Candidates earn county commissioner nods for November

Keywords: Politics,
Dewayne Findley and Keenan Ertel congratulate each other on winning their county commissioner Republican primary races Tuesday evening at Beny’s Restaurant in Cortez. At right is Ertel’s grandson, Kaden Huff. Enlargephoto

Journal/Sam Green

Dewayne Findley and Keenan Ertel congratulate each other on winning their county commissioner Republican primary races Tuesday evening at Beny’s Restaurant in Cortez. At right is Ertel’s grandson, Kaden Huff.

Montezuma County Republicans selected a pair of candidates for the 2012 general election Tuesday night for open seats on the county’s board of commissioners.

Keenan Ertel and Dewayne Findley walked away with easy victories after the unofficial results of the mail-in ballot election were calculated.

Two commissioner districts were contested in the local GOP’s primary, District 2, which covers the city of Cortez, and District 3, the Mancos area. Both seats are being vacated by term-limited commissioners Larrie Rule, District 2, and Gerald Koppenhafer, District 3.

In District 2, Ertel was the clear-cut choice, earning 2,271 votes, 61 percent, of the total 3,739 cast. Creston “Bud” Garner came in second with 953 votes, 25 percent; and Pat DeGagne-Rule finished with 515 votes, 14 percent.

Ertel expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the race at the Republican headquarters on Main Street Tuesday night, though he was surprised at the decisive nature of his victory.

“I am absolutely ecstatic,” Ertel said. “I thought it would be a much closer race. The other two candidates were quite good and ran very strong races.”

Garner and DeGagne-Rule had little to say Tuesday night, but congratulated Ertel on the win and stated a desire to move forward for the good of the county.

“It’s time for Plan B,” DeGagne-Rule said. “We always have Plan B.”

Garner referred to a larger plan when responding to election results.

“I was going to say the same thing win or lose,” he said. “The Lord brings up his rulers according to his will and his purposes.”

Despite the loss, Garner said he will continue to be involved in political issues in Montezuma County.

“My vigilance shall not cease,” he said.”

Ertel, a lifelong resident of Montezuma County and owner of Ertel Funeral Home, pointed to economic and community growth as his two compelling reasons for running for the county’s highest office when he announced his candidacy for the commissioner’s race at the beginning of January.

Ertel is no stranger to political office or community service. He served on the Cortez City Council from 1986 to 1990, on the Cortez Fire Protection District board for eight years, has been a member of the board at Citizens State Bank since 1988 and was instrumental in starting Hospice of Montezuma.

No challenger has yet to announce a run against the Republican candidate in the District 2 general election. Ertel said if a challenger were to come forward, he would accept that challenge and move forward with his campaign.

“Would I welcome the challenge? No, I would not,” Ertel said. “But how could you refuse. I would accept the challenge and proceed.”

In the District 3 race, Findley cruised to a solid victory over fellow candidate Casey McClellan, receiving 2,119 votes, 59 percent, of the 3,575 votes cast. McClellan earned 1,456 votes, 41 percent.

Findley congratulated his opponent on a campaign well fought and executed, and commented on the clean nature of the commissioner races.

“I’d like to applaud Casey, and all the Republican candidates, for the campaign he ran,” Findley said. “He ran a campaign about the issues. There was no mudslinging or animosity.”

McClellan was not available for comment.

A former county commissioner from 2003 to 2006, Findley lost his re-election bid in 2006 in the primary election to current Commissioner Steve Chappell. As a result, he said he understands the emotions elections can bring to winners, and losers.

“It is great to win, but it is hard to lose,” he said. “I know both feelings.”

Like Ertel, Findley is a lifelong resident of the county and a business owner. He owns and operates Aspen Wall Wood near Dolores. When declaring his run for commissioner, Findley noted the county’s land use code, zoning work and public land access issues.

Findley is the only Montezuma County GOP candidate currently facing competition in the general election. Unaffiliated candidates Larry Don Suckla and Greg Kemp have filed the necessary paperwork and petitions at the clerk’s office to make a run for the commissioner’s seat in November. Findley said he will need the full support of the county’s Republican Party moving into the general election.

“I hope the support I received in the primary continues into the next round,” Findley said. “I’m going to need the support of the Republican Party. A three-man race is going to be tough.”

Election results will not be official until late next week, after the canvassing process is complete.

The 2012 general election is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 6.

For questions regarding the election, contact the Montezuma County Clerk’s Office at 565-3728.

Reach Kimberly Benedict at kimberlyb@cortezjournal.com.