Briefline

Pueblo County Democrats censure county commissioners over endorsement of Republican

By: - July 20, 2022 4:27 pm

The Pueblo County Courthouse at 215 W 10th St., pictured on April 14, 2022. (Sara Wilson/Colorado Newsline)

The Pueblo County Democratic Party removed two sitting county commissioners from its central committee after they endorsed a Republican candidate for an open commissioner seat.

Commissioners Garrison Ortiz, who serves as board chair, and Epimenio “Eppie” Griego also received a public censure from the county party.

“Garrison Ortiz and Eppie Griego are not Democrats. They are not Democrats in spirit or practice. Their endorsement of the Republican candidate for County Commissioner was not born of concern for their community or their party. Rather, it is a product of arrogance, ambition and self-interest,” party chairperson Mary Beth Corsentino wrote in a statement.

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Ortiz and Griego attended the campaign launch event for Zach Swearingen, a Republican county commissioner candidate, on July 7. At the event, they publicly endorsed Swearingen over Democratic candidate Roxy Pignanelli, according to the Pueblo Chieftain.

Pignanelli and Swearingen are running to fill a seat currently held by Commissioner Chris Wiseman, who is retiring and not seeking reelection. Wiseman defeated Swearingen in 2018. Swearingen is married to the communications director for Colorado Republican Heidi Ganahl’s gubernatorial campaign.

In that endorsement, Ortiz said his support did not have to do with party affiliation but rather who is best for the job. Ortiz said he encouraged Swearingen to run and sees him as a partner to accomplish major priorities, such as the construction of a new jail and road that will connect Pueblo to Pueblo West.

“Based on his own comments, it is clear that Ortiz recruited and encouraged The Republican to run long before he even knew who the Democratic nominee would be. The Republican is not the best candidate for the job; he is the best candidate to fuel and validate Garrison Ortiz’s personal agenda,” Corsentino said.

She called Ortiz’s support of Swearingen a “premeditated plan” to “secure his own legacy” and “own” the board.

Ortiz called the statement from the county party “disheartening.”

“I have heard countless times throughout my tenure, that the public would like elected officials to work more collaboratively putting community first, regardless of political affiliation. This is what that looks like in practice. The endorsement was simply done in a spirit of finding ways to work together,” Ortiz said in a statement.

The Colorado Democratic Party did not return a request for comment on the matter.

Ortiz was elected to his first term on the board of county commissioners in 2016 and was reelected in 2020. Griego was first elected in 2020.

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Sara Wilson
Sara Wilson

Sara Wilson covers state government, Colorado's congressional delegation, energy and other stories for Newsline. She formerly was a reporter for The Pueblo Chieftain, where she covered politics and government in southern Colorado. Wilson earned a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and as a student she reported on Congress and other federal beats in Washington, D.C.

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