A controversial failed bid by a Vail town councilman to petition his way onto the Democratic primary ballot for Eagle County commissioner touched off a minor blogging frenzy in the high country this week.
In a “Breaking News” story posted on its Web site Monday morning, the mainstream Vail Daily reported that Vail Town Councilman Mark Gordon missed by a scant eight signatures getting on the Democratic primary ballot to face incumbent county commissioner Peter Runyon.
But the hybrid blog and news site, realvail.com, actually broke the story nearly 64 hours earlier on Friday evening, and the local conservative blog eaglecountytimes.com posted an item on Gordon earlier Monday morning. So the Daily was picking up nearly three-day-old leftovers.
The anonymous eaglecountytimes.com, which bills itself as “the online home for the conservative voice in Eagle County,” inaccurately reported Gordon waited too long to submit his petition, giving him no time before the deadline Thursday evening to get more signatures. In fact, there is no “curing” process in a party primary. Gordon only had one shot, and once the county clerk determined he didn’t have enough signatures, he was done.
“Gordon, who recently quit his job at Vail Resorts, presumably to run his campaign full-time, waited till ‘the last minute’ to turn in his signature petition. By the time the Clerks (sic) office had (triple checked) his petition, (in less than 24 hours) Mark Gordon had no time left to get the (~8) additional signatures to force the primary,” eaglecountytimes.com reported Monday.
Eagle County Clerk and Recorder Teak Simonton, a Republican, said that state law only allows for a cure process of petitions that come up short in the case of unaffiliated candidates trying to get on the general election ballot, or referendums. The state Republican and Democratic parties are trying to dissuade people from going outside the parties and petitioning onto the primary ballots, Simonton said, and therefore have legally blocked a cure process.
So Gordon, who had clearly perturbed the local Democratic Party with his petition bid, only had one chance to get the 130 signatures of registered Eagle County Democrats. He turned in 180, and Simonton threw out 58 signatures because of incorrect addresses, illegible signatures or unaffiliated voter status.
Simonton said she e-mailed former Avon Town Councilman Pete Buckley, a Republican who is widely believed to be behind eaglecountytimes.com – including by several elected officials in both parties – in order to correct the information.
“I did send an e-mail to him saying this wasn’t accurate; this doesn’t make me look good; it makes me look like I’ve given the wrong information,” Simonton said. “Mark Gordon was justifiably upset. And (Buckley’s) response was, ‘I’ll forward it to whoever wrote the story.’ He didn’t say that it was him, and he didn’t tell me who he was forwarding it to.
“That’s upsetting, especially when there’s misinformation and you’re not able to talk to the person who wrote it.”
The Gordon item was unchanged and still posted on eaglecountytimes.com as of Thursday afternoon.
Buckley’s wife and former Avon Town Councilwoman Debbie Buckley is the Republican candidate running against Democrat and former Eagle Mayor Jon Stavney for the District 2 Eagle County commissioner seat in November. Democrat Runyon now has a clear path to face Republican and former County Commissioner Dick Gustafson in the race for the District 1 county commissioner seat in November.
Pete and Debbie Buckley did not return phone calls requesting comment.
Calling it a “bone-headed” blunder on his part, Gordon said he won’t consider running unaffiliated as it would likely split the Democrat vote in November.
“I guess I had important things still to get done in Vail,” said a clearly chagrined Gordon, who admits he did not check his signatures against a county voter file.