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In two key Mesa County races, economy and housing among top issues

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In two key Mesa County races, economy and housing among top issues

Aug 02, 2022 | 7:00 am ET
By Sharon Sullivan
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In two key Mesa County races, economy and housing among top issues
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Downtown Grand Junction on May 21, 2021. (Chase Woodruff/Colorado Newsline)

In June, Charlie Pink was asked by a fellow Grand Junction union member to consider a run as the Democratic candidate for Mesa County commissioner in District 2. When Pink learned that Republican candidate Bobbie Daniel was running unopposed he heeded the call.

The last Democrat to be elected Mesa County commissioner was Doralyn Genova, who served from the 1980s until her retirement in 2005. Genova was also the first female Democrat elected to the body.

“I’m here because democracy is not served when candidates run unopposed,” Pink, 47, said, during a July 28 meet-and-greet at Edgewater Brewery in Grand Junction, an event organized by the vice chair of the Mesa County Democratic Party, Charley Allan.

Roughly 60 people attended the gathering, where Damon Davis, a Democrat challenging Republican Rick Taggart for the Colorado House District 55 seat, also spoke.

In two key Mesa County races, economy and housing among top issues
Charlie Pink, a Democratic candidate for Mesa County commissioner in District 2, speaks during a meet-and-greet July 28, 2022, at Edgewater Brewery in Grand Junction. (Sharon Sullivan for Colorado Newsline)

Pink decided six weeks ago to seek the office currently held by Scott McInnis, whose term expires January 2023 – which means Pink is behind in name recognition and fundraising, but, with three months until the November election, he hopes to gain traction in this predominantly Republican enclave.

His opponent, Daniel, announced her candidacy more than a year ago and has raised $24,000, thus far. She’s held more than 50 events over the past year, she said.

Born and raised in conservative Montrose by “staunch Republican parents,” Pink registered as a Republican when he turned 18, before eventually finding himself more aligned with Democratic Party policies, he said. In 2008, he became a state delegate for then-candidate Barack Obama.

His experience with county government stems from working with Mesa County inspectors as an electrician and the knowledge he says he gleaned growing up with a father who worked for Montrose County.

“The county commission is a big deal,” Pink said. “I grew up with a dad who experienced several county commissions during his career. He has seen the control they have.”

“My opponent was groomed by the Republican party. It would be good for the county to have someone like me,” he said.

In two key Mesa County races, economy and housing among top issues
Bobbie Daniel, center, the Republican candidate for Mesa County commissioner in District 2, attends U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert’s primary election night watch party on June 28, 2022, at at Warehouse25sixty-five Kitchen + Bar in Grand Junction. (Sharon Sullivan for Colorado Newsline)

Initially, Daniel, 42, was the sole candidate, after beating Mesa County Assessor Ken Brownlee during the Republican Mesa County assembly in May. Brownlee failed to reach the 30% threshold to be added to June’s Republican primary ballot.

Daniel grew up in Palisade after her family moved to the Grand Valley from the Meeker area. She often touts her working-class background as the daughter of a coal miner and a hairdresser.

She said various people over the years have suggested she run for public office — specifically the county commission. Daniel is currently a stay-at-home mother of four children. If elected commissioner, Daniel said she would focus on keeping the local economy healthy and vibrant by promoting opportunities for businesses and keeping local taxes low.

Pink said he would focus on land, water and other local issues if elected. He is journeyman electrician at Quality Electric and Controls, and a North American Board Certified Energy Practitioners-certified solar installer.

When asked if he believed the 2020 presidential election was fair and accurate, and if Joe Biden is the duly elected President, Pink responded, “Of course, I do. And, I’ll be upset if they take away my drop box,” he added half-jokingly.

When asked the same question during a separate interview, Daniel paused, before replying, “That’s such a tough one,” then added, “I do think it was fair and accurate and Joe Biden is our President.”

House District 55

Davis grew up in Palisade and practices law with the firm Killian, Davis, Richter, & Kraniak in Grand Junction. As an attorney he has spent his career representing the working people of Mesa County, he said.

“It’s where my loyalties lie,” he said. “My career has been representing people of Mesa County — I’ve been their advocate, and I want to continue being their advocate” as a state representative.

In two key Mesa County races, economy and housing among top issues
Damon Davis, a Democrat running for the Colorado House District 55 seat, appeared for a meet-and-greet July 28, 2022, at Edgewater Brewery in Grand Junction. (Sharon Sullivan for Colorado Newsline)

Davis, 45, said one of his priorities as a lawmaker would be increasing affordable housing in Grand Junction, where housing costs have skyrocketed. Reducing zoning roadblocks to high density housing would be one step toward reaching that goal, he said.

Taggart, Davis’ opponent, has served seven years on Grand Junction City Council, two as mayor. He said the city set has aside federal stimulus money and formed a committee to address the affordable housing issue.

Taggart said he would also like to see regulations minimized to bring down the cost of building homes. The city is currently considering waiving fees for the redevelopment of the vacant, former City Market store in downtown Grand Junction — though the proposed apartment complex would not be deed-restricted affordable. However, the project is expected to benefit downtown business owners, while increasing housing in the city’s core, Taggart said.

“The City Market project is an economic development project — not affordable housing,” he said. “We need to do both. A development like City Market becomes an anchor (for downtown merchants). It’s not at the expense of affordable housing. We need both.”

As representative, Taggart, 71, said he would seek to be a “voice of rational reason when it comes to government overreach.”

In two key Mesa County races, economy and housing among top issues
Republican Grand Junction City Council member Rick Taggart is running for the Colorado House District 55 seat in the November 2022 election. (Courtesy of Rick Taggart)

“Companies are more effective in terms of self-regulation as opposed to government putting regulations in place,” he said.

Davis also cited criminal justice reform as a priority if he is elected representative. He mentioned the possibility of adding in-house mental health professionals at detention centers to treat inmates with drug addictions or mental health disorders — which he said could help cut down on recidivism rates.

Davis also brought up the prospect of making college more affordable for Colorado residents. He mentioned how New Mexico offers free college tuition for its residents. Colorado could do something similar, he said.

If elected, Taggart said he would resign from City Council in late December, to begin serving as a state lawmaker in January 2023.

While often described as a moderate Republican, Taggart emphasized he is “very conservative” when it comes to fiscal policies. And, he said he can work collaboratively with legislators from across the state.

“I’m a firm believer that good legislation requires negotiation, discussion, and may require compromise,” he said. “I understand that and respect that process. There are a lot of issues where we can find common ground.”

Davis said he’ll need to win over independents, and perhaps some moderate Republicans in a region that favors the GOP.

“I plan to appeal to independents,” Davis said. “Especially those who work for a living. I have a blue-collar message. I’ve got a plan for affordable housing.”

Both candidates agreed unequivocally that the 2020 Presidential election was fair and accurate and that Biden is the duly elected President.

The House District 55 seat is currently occupied by Republican Janice Rich, who is running for the Senate District 7 seat.