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Sep 20, 2010 8:40 PM by Andy Koen

Anti-incumbent fervor stops in El Paso County

The strong anti-incumbent sentiment that has swept through many national political races seems to stop at El Paso County where several familiar faces are back on the ballot, although many of the candidates are running different offices.

Clerk and Record Bob Balink is term limited and running unopposed to be the next county treasurer. Running to replace him are term-limited County Commissioner Wayne Williams, a Republican, and Public Trustee Thomas Mowle, a Democrat.

Republican Darryl Glenn is leaving two years into his second term on city council to run for the seat vacated by Williams. Running against him is Steve Kjonaas, a Democrat and one of the few political newcomers in county politics this year.

County Commissioner Jim Bensberg is also term limited and running for his seat are Michael Merrifield, a Democrat and term-limited State Representative, and Peggy Littleton, a Republican who opted not to run for a second term on the state board of education.

If it seems like the political parties are simply shuffling their candidates from one public office to another, well, they are. So says Bob Loevy, Ph.D. a political science professor at Colorado College. He says voters prefer familiar faces in local races.

"They're most likely to vote for names they know, names that have been in office, names that have been on the ballot before," Loevy said. "It's perfectly logical for people who have been in office and built political reputations to not want to let that go when they hit their term limits."

This preference for familiar candidates seems contrary to the national trend this election cycle which has seen lesser known Tea Party-backed candidates like Ken Buck, Joe Miller and Christine O'Donnell win in primary contests over Republican Party heavyweights Jane Norton, Lisa Murkowski and Mike Castle.

Loevy says that anti-incumbent fervor is generally limited to larger races such as the governor's and national offices.

"When you get up to the US House, US Senate, governor; then the ideology and partisanship become paramount," Loevy said. "But they really have very little effect at the local level."

El Paso County voters can choose to extend term limits for their local offices this election cycle.  Ballot issue 1B would give a third term to the District Attorney, 1C would extend the term limit for County Commissioners, and 1D would add a third term of office to the Clerk and Recorder, Treasurer, Assessor and Surveyor.

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