There’s no doubt that Weld County will be a major player in the U.S. Senate, 4th Congressional District and Colorado gubernatorial races this year.
Ask the Republican candidates in those races at the Weld County GOP County Assembly on Saturday at Northridge High School in Greeley, and many will tell you that Weld has become the model county in the state, if not the entire country.
The talk at the assembly focused on protecting 2nd Amendment rights, pro-life, fracking, lowering the national debt, fiscal responsibility and limited government, but a debt-free Weld County, which has an abundance of oil and gas and job growth — Weld County has almost 5,000 more people working than it did at this same time last year, according to employment numbers released Friday by the state — had the national and statewide candidates talking it up.
Congressman Cory Gardner, who is running against Democratic incumbent Mark Udall for the U.S. Senate seat, said Weld County has always provided tremendous points of energy for the Republican Party.
“If you look at the economy, if you look at what’s happening in northern Colorado, it’s even more in focus today because the voters in Weld County are intense and excited,” Gardner said. “I talk about Weld all the time with the economic opportunity, the job growth and what happens when you have a group of elected officials, leaders at the local level, who want businesses to thrive and do everything they can to create jobs.”
Gardner said the energy in Weld County is clearly visible.
“The energy from Weld can really spread throughout the state to make this election a victory in November,” Gardner said. “It is a Republican-dominated county and together with Weld County the motivation to get out for exciting races, whether it’s the sheriff’s race, the congressional race, there’s a lot of excitement for the ticket this year. They know, Weld County more than anybody, that the path to the majority of the Senate goes through Weld County and comes through Colorado.”
Gubernatorial candidate Greg Brophy, a state senator from Wray, said Weld is really important to the governor’s race.
“It’s blessed with great natural resources,” Brophy said. “It has historically had great leadership and fiscally conservative folks who created an environment where those natural resources can be utilized and put to beneficial use. When you convert oil, gas and water into wealth and you do that regularly, you end up with a successful county.”
Weld District Attorney Ken Buck, who is running for the 4th Congressional District seat in the June 24 Republican primary, said having three candidates from Weld is important to the area.
“Weld County has both the agriculture and the oil and gas that are key components of the economy,” Buck said. “Doing well in this area means that you’ll do well in Douglas and the eastern plains. Weld County has been blessed with huge oil and gas wealth which helps reduce taxes. If you can keep spending under control, you can do well in this county. I think it is (a model), but we have special circumstances that help us.”
Weld Republican party chairwoman Karen Pelzer said having three candidates from the county running in the 4th CD says a lot.
“I think we should be proud of ourselves that we do a good job of building the bench and bringing people along and making them ready for future office,” said Pelzer, who added that there were 351 seated delegates and about 500 total people in attendance at the assembly. “The 4th Congressional is made up of a bunch of counties up and down the eastern side of the state and Douglas County is represented in the 4th and Boulder County is represented in the 4th, and the three candidates are all from Weld County.”
Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer, who is also running in the 4th CD race, said she thinks Weld should be the place that others mirror.
“As a county commissioner for 13-plus years, we have effective0ly managed a $256 million budget to the point where we have no long-term, no short-term debt at all. We also have no county sales tax,” Kirkmeyer said. “We give a Tabor refund every year to the tune of 5.23 mills, which equates to that we have given back $278 million to our taxpayers. Even after the devastating floods of last year, we will have close to $100 million in our contingency fund balance that is unrestricted. We’re the only county in the nation that’s in that situation, that knows how to balance a budget and knows how to bring fiscal sanity to a county and make sure that it works. It’s a model that I hope to take back to Washington.”
State Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley, who is running in the 4th CD race, said Weld has the right values and principles.
“They stand for the right things, they work hard and it’s just good people,” Renfroe said. “I think the forefathers were very visionary and leaders in the county and things that they set in place, it’s been managed well.”
Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who is running for governor, said Weld is very important.
“It’s a conservative county with great turnout,” Gessler said. “In my mind, it’s critical if you’re going to win a primary election. You guys have a great set of county commissioners who I think have done a very good job, who have been fiscally prudent and forward looking on that.”
Melissa Gattis, of Greeley, a sixth-generation Weld native, said it’s all about work ethic that makes Weld County stand out.
“I truly think it’s the work ethic of the people of Weld County,” Gattis said. “Especially after natural disasters, the tornado and the flood, the way our area and region just pulled together goes back to our roots in agriculture of lending a hand to your neighbor and working for the common good.”
Val Martensen of Greeley is an independent voter who was attending her first political assembly and wasn’t ready to commit to anyone, but she said the candidates sounded as if they cared about Weld County. Martensen said she lost her faith in the government and politicians many years ago.
“It’s good that people really want to make a difference, but it’s going to take more than just a few people,” Martensen said. “What I heard was very good and I think that there are a lot of people that are running that do care about Weld County and really want to make a difference, but it’s all lip service right now.”