Ed Marston loses commissioner bid


Yes, Colorado turned blue. But in western Colorado's Delta County, the GOP prevailed, giving the nod to the McCain-Palin ticket. Democratic congressman John Salazar fared best, getting about 45 percent of the vote. Not one Democratic candidate won here, from the top to the bottom of the ticket.

I know something about being a Democrat in Delta County. My father was a state representative when I was a child, and I vividly remember his losses as painful and personal. Even after he'd become Speaker of the House, he was defeated in Delta County. During his first (unsuccessful) campaign in the 1950s, his own aunt spread the rumor that he was a communist.

But that was 50 years ago, and I was hoping for an evolution. Alas, our own Ed Marston, making a run for County Commissioner, lost this week in Delta County by the two-to-one margin that reflects political affiliaton here -- the same fate that Obama suffered even as he took the state by 7 points.

Ed campaigned hard, going door to door around the county. He held an ice cream social at the Delta County Fairgrounds in Hotchkiss, and marched in the local parades: Cherry Day in Paonia, Deltarado Days in Delta, and so on. ("At first I was embarrassed by it," he confessed. "But then I began to enjoy it. I felt a little like Julius Caesar, waving to the crowds.") He and his wife Betsy (still an editor at High Country News) were out at dawn on many a day, wrestling with four-by-eight-foot "Marston" signs they installed in fields along the highways, and on buildings around town. There were fundraisers and T-shirts, and lots of one-on-one with well-wishers and more doubtful voters. Many of us felt Ed would really bring something valuable to the county as a commissioner: his deep background in the issues of the West as former publisher of HCN; his long service on the board of the Delta-Montrose Electrical Association; his analytical approach to the range of issues we face here, from land use and development to highways and water allocation.

A few weeks before election day, Ed was sideswiped by some ugly smears, originating not in Delta County, but in the Denver suburb of Lakewood. There was the charge that he was against the Second Amendment, based on a comment he'd made in 1988 about 4-H activities. There was also a cartoon -- run in the local paper -- portraying him as a big-bellied, anti-gun proponent. Ed responded with robo calls telling voters that he is a gun owner and even has a concealed carry permit.

Then there was a flier accusing him of wanting to allow Mexican pedophiles to enter the county. We never did figure out where that false and absurd allegation originated, but it probably did some damage.

Toward the end of the campaign, Ed was still out walking the streets. But the gun thing hurt, the immigration-related smear was a strange and unexpected blow, and he was discouraged. Still, his opponent, the incumbent, hardly campaigned at all and many of us remained hopeful, studding our lawns with "Marston" signs and urging him on.

When the dust settled on election night, Ed made the rounds to friendly gatherings and was applauded for his valiant efforts. And he found himself relieved -- not happy to lose, but relieved that it was all over.