County and state candidates push their platforms

Jeff-West Community Forum brings together candidates in six contested races

Kevin M. Smith
Special to Colorado Community Media
Posted 10/2/18

Candidates for local and state offices spoke at the Jeff-West Community Forum Sept. 28, briefly summarizing their backgrounds and priorities. The event, held at The Grill at Walnut Creek Golf …

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County and state candidates push their platforms

Jeff-West Community Forum brings together candidates in six contested races


Candidates for local and state offices spoke at the Jeff-West Community Forum Sept. 28, briefly summarizing their backgrounds and priorities.

The event, held at The Grill at Walnut Creek Golf Preserve, included unopposed candidates, such as Vince Buzek for RTD District J board of directors, and Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader, as well as contested races like Jefferson County coroner, assessor and State House District 29.

Jeff-West is a community organization that focuses on the portion of Westminster inside Jefferson County.

House District 29

Three candidates populate the ballot for House District 29, which covers Arvada, extending into Standley Lake in Westminster.

Tracy Kraft-Tharp, the Democratic incumbent who would be term limited if elected again, is being challenged by Republican Grady Nouis and Libertarian Hans Romer.

Kraft-Tharp, touting her bipartisan approach, said she would continue working on economic development, workforce development and access to mental health care.

“I work with anyone that will work with me,” said Kraft-Tharp, who has served three terms. “The majority of my bills are bipartisan.”

Nouis said said his goals would be to protect the free market, taxpayer money and free speech. He pointed to his activism as strong points for his candidacy. He described recently protesting the city of Westminster’s proposal to use a single company for all residential trash service.

“I spoke at the podium a few times, the city council listened, and we were able to keep the trash hauler that we wanted at the end of the day,” Nouis said. “That was a victory for free markets and I was glad to be a part of it.”

He also advocated for a fiscally conservative approach, vowing not to vote for any additional taxes.

Romer pitched the idea of property tax break for those without school-age children. "Why not allow them a tax break . . .?" he said.

Jefferson County treasurer

Republican Frank Teunissen and Democrat Jerry DiTullio are vying for this office. County Treasurer Tim Kauffman is not running because he is term-limited.

Teunissen said he wants to safeguard taxpayer money, keep government limited and promote transparency.

“I know that the No. 1 responsibility of the treasurer is to protect the taxpayers’ money,” said Teunissen, who has 30 years of banking, finance and investment experience.

DiTullio was unable to attend the event because he is a teacher at Wheat Ridge High School. But in response to questions from Colorado Community Media, he said his three goals are to improve communication with other departments, correct software errors that resulted in property tax bills increasing by as much as 400 percent for some, and build an online reporting system for residents to see year-to-date budget versus expenditures.

“I can hit the ground running for the taxpayers,” said Ditullio, who has held elected municipal offices with the city of Wheat Ridge the past 23 years, including the past three as the city’s treasurer.

Jefferson County coroner

Democrat Annette Cannon and Republican Thomas Weldon are seeking the coroner’s seat — both boast decades of experience for the position. County Coroner John Graham is term-limited.

Cannon was a nurse for 38 years that included working in the morgue at the VA hospital. She has a master's in business and was in charge of the medical records department for the city and county of Denver for two years. She said she wants to focus on data.

“I think we could do a lot better with our data as far as how they report drug overdoses, things like that,” Cannon said, noting that information can help organizations working on prevention. “We have a big opioid problem; we have a big suicide problem.”

Weldon has been an investigator in the coroner’s office since 2012, is a former paramedic and served as executive director for a nonprofit ambulance service in Florida. He is also a former small business owner. He also wants to focus on data as well as becoming nationally accredited.

“Our decisions are profound … we can impact estates that are settled, we impact insurance payouts, we impact the criminal aspect of cases we investigate," Weldon said. "We don’t get a chance to get it right the second time.”

Jefferson County Commission — District 3

Republican Tina Francone currently holds the seat after being appointed to fill a vacancy in January. She is being challenged by Democrat Lesley Dahlkemper, a former Jefferson County school board member. District 3 represents south Jefferson County.

Dahlkemper said the No. 1 concern she hears from residents is how to advance the quality of life. Common issues related to that include open space management, having sustainable and renewable energy, attracting well-paid jobs, transportation and housing, she said.

Dahlkemper has worked for 30 years as a nonprofit executive and been a small business owner, but first moved to Colorado to be a reporter for Colorado Public Radio.

“My success really hinged on listening and hearing different perspectives and looking at issues from all different sides and finding common ground,” Dahlkemper said.

Francone, who also served on the RTD Board of Directors for three years, said she wants to continue reducing red tape and regulations. She pointed to the planning and zoning board currently going through an audit to ensure outdated language is removed and only administrative fees are charged. She also wants to eliminate the business personal property tax.

“That sends a clear message to our small businesses that Jefferson County is open for business,”  Francone said.

Jefferson County Assessor

Republican Brian Cassidy, who beat Assessor Ron Sandstrom in the primary, and Democrat Scot Kersgaard are running for the office.

Cassidy has had a career in real estate since 1994 and said the assessor needs to have experience in that field. Cassidy said he wants to ensure the assessor’s office is fair and accurate.

Kersgaard said the assessor’s office employs experienced appraisers so he sees the job as the “CEO” to manage the office. He said he wants to modernize the office with technology to make it more accurate and more efficient.

County Clerk & Recorder

Democrat George Stern is challenging incumbent Faye Griffin, a Republican.

Stern said he believes he can have the biggest impact on government from this position.

“I think that given the gridlock and partisanship we see at higher levels of government, local government has never been as important as it is today,” Stern said. “The clerk’s office is the perfect place to make sure local government is working for everyone because it oversees areas that impact everyone, including all of our county DMV offices and all of our elections.”

Griffin, the incumbent, did not attend the event and did not return Colorado Community Media's call by press deadline.


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