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Montezuma Commissioner Candelaria appears headed to reelection in close race

Montezuma County Clerk Kim Percell explains the election process, as Election Deputy Danielle Wells and Election Judge Miranda Warren process signature verification letters during Tuesday's primary election. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)
Incumbent leads challenger Tim Lanier by 61 votes, or just over 1%; rejected ballots could change results

Incumbent Montezuma County Commissioner Jim Candelaria appears headed to reelection in the Republican primary Tuesday for the the District 1 seat, according to unofficial results.

Candelaria had 37.94% of the votes (2,038) compared with challenger Tim Lanier, who had 36.80% (1,977). Candidate Liz Tozer had 25.26%, or 1,357 votes.

The winner of the primary will be uncontested on the November ballot. The position is for a four-year term.

The results of the close race could change if ballots that were rejected because of signature issues can be verified.

About 200 ballots were rejected because they lacked a signature or had a signature discrepancy, said County Clerk Kim Percell. Those voters will be notified they have eight days to correct the signature problem for the ballots to count.

Candelaria gained a small lead in early preliminary results, and was able to hang on.


Of the 18,866 ballots, 7,364 were returned, a 39% voter turnout.

Percell said about 200 ballots were rejected because of a signature problem. Those voters have eight days to rectify the signature for the vote to count. Letters will inform them of the process.

In such a close race, it is plausible that rectified ballots could change the outcome of the District 1 commissioner race.

Percell added that if an election is won by 1% or less, an automatic recount is required by the Colorado Secretary of State. If it is more than 1%, the candidate can request a recount, but has to pay for it.

Candelaria has served as county commissioner since 2018. He previously worked in construction and as a firefighter in Cortez and Farmington, where he made the rank of battalion chief.

During his campaign he pointed to his experience as a commissioner, including navigating the pandemic, implementing the land use code, broadcasting public meetings and informing the public via video presentations.

On the economy, he pointed to the approval of two U.S. Department of Agriculture meatpacking plants in the county, the cleanup of the M&M truck stop for a new business, and support of outdoor recreation.

He helped improve parking at Sand Canyon and open public access to the Summit Ridge BLM land. He supports greenhouse development to extend the agriculture season.

On the issue of mental health and drug abuse, he supports the county’s new Community Intervention Program, which pairs EMTs and social workers to respond to noncriminal emergencies.

Dolores County results

In the Dolores County primary, the only contested race was for county treasurer between Republicans Taylor Funk and Lenore Dianne Johnson.

According to unofficial final results, Funk won with had 531 votes (76%) compared with Johnson’s 164 votes (24%).

Republican Mike Steele went unopposed in the primary for Dolores County Sheriff. Current Sheriff Don Wilson announced he is running for a second term as an unaffiliated candidate, which requires petitioning on to the November general election ballot.

Dolores County Commissioner Julie Kibel of District 1, County Assessor Christy Cressler, County Clerk and Recorder Lana Hancock, and County Coroner Aaron Hankins ran unopposed in the primary.

In Dolores County, 1,671 ballots were mailed, and 800 ballots were cast, a turnout of 48%.