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Divisiveness in our Political Space -- No Room for it in Teller County

How far have we come since the outstanding cooperation and neighborly behavior we saw during the High Chateau Fire and other Teller County moments where our residents came together for the good of all and our community.  In those times, we didn’t see Republican or Democrat, we saw neighbors, friends, and people in need.  And even in those times we may not have agreed on what to do, but we shared ideas, and came together for the good of all.

I have been a leader my whole life.  And a key rule for any leader is to never look down your nose at the very people you claim to serve.   While there is of course room in politics for healthy debate and respectful discourse on a variety of issues, those of us running for office in Teller County ought not to fan the flames of discontent among our residents for perceived short-term political gain.  

The behaviors we see at the Federal level should not be replicated here at any level.  We should lead by personal example, with real ideas for our County’s future, not attack those of the other party in an attempt to look “more Republican.”  It’s disrespectful, not Christian, and frankly, empty.

George Washington argued that “political parties need to be restrained in a free country with a government empowered by the consent of the governed and established through popular elections.” He warned us that overheated political parties could distract the government from its required duty to the people and even lead to the eradication of the freedoms established at our founding.

For Christians, Proverbs 15:18 provides another example against divisiveness, “a hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute.”

As candidates for public office in Teller County, in particular, County Commissioner, we should exercise extreme caution with what we say about those we hope to serve and protect just because they don’t agree with all of our positions.   In 35 years of combined public service at the Federal and County level, I learned that we serve all of the people  – not just those who agree with us. 

I was truly saddened by those of you who contacted me to point out my opponent’s sneering rant on Facebook on September 21, 2019 at 2:40 PM, calling our neighbors who are Democrats, “crazy.” 

I am calling out my opponent and asking for a return to civility in this campaign for the good of our party and for the good of our residents.  He consistently communicates that he is asking for insight from the people and is listening.  He seems to be running a populist, promise them anything, “I’d like to hear from you,” Campaign.   

Sir, you are in fact not listening, and you have already marginalized a sizable portion of our County, calling them “Crazy Democrats.” 

I am truly disturbed by anyone who attacks someone merely because of a political disagreement.  Is it because the attacker has no vision of his own, or any real leadership experience, or is the attacker already doing the bidding of those who are financing his campaign?  Maybe it’s a little of all of it?

What is VERY CLEAR to me is that my opponent is not a respectful or serious candidate for County Commissioner--nor is he what he portrays.  Anyone who truly wants to hear from our people in a “bottom-up” campaign would listen to all of our people, not just Republicans or others who already agree with you.  That is not a campaign, but an echo chamber.  In the end, a County Commissioner must protect the life, health, and safety of each and every one of us regardless of political affiliation.  

My opponent seems to be campaigning from some backroom playbook that says if you pander to a vocal few in the majority, and openly criticize others, you will somehow appear “Republican.”  This runs 100% counter to the principles of our Republic and those of our Founding Fathers.  Americans are, as the Framers of our Republic were, distinctly aware of the “Tyranny of the Majority,” so we rely on structures, laws, and principles to ensure that everyone has a voice, even if they may be in the minority.  This is exactly why so many folks, of all walks of life and political perspectives, agree that the National Popular Vote concept is dead wrong.    

My opponent employed a dangerous rhetoric in his published video, suggesting that if he is elected, he has no interest in the thoughts of “crazy” Democrats…or in other words, about 1/3 of our County. 

How quickly my opponent forgets the feelings that we as Republicans experienced in the last year when some Democrat lawmakers rudely ignored the ideas and arguments of some state residents, merely because they spoke from a conservative perspective.  Maybe he forgets the indignation Trump supporters felt when Hillary Clinton called them "deplorable."  I pray that my opponent is not looking for retribution.

Folks, this has to stop.

Republicans and Democrats disagree on many issues and agree on some, but we are all God’s children and Teller County residents and debate is healthy for our democracy.  The future I am trying to shape in Teller County will include all of us and I will listen, as I have been, to all of our residents.  We ought not to denigrate those we hope to serve and lead.  How we conduct ourselves in this campaign is a demonstration of our character and intent.  This is not Washington D.C. this is Teller County, where we try and respect each other’s thoughts and opinions for the good of all.

I am proud to call many of our Teller County residents my friends and partners, and this campaign has introduced me to many new friends and like-minded people that care about our future. To be very clear, I would NEVER call a third of our friends and neighbors “crazy” for their personal political beliefs or for demonstrating their unalienable rights.  Not only is what my opponent said out of line and dead wrong, but also it is not Christian.  More important than campaign talking points, posters and promises, is what we say as candidates, what we say and how we behave is a true indicator of a person’s character and a predictor of future behavior.  Calling a group of Teller County residents crazy for their political believes, discounting that they too care about our county, serve in its government and run our businesses is exactly why my opponent will not be a County Commissioner in this County.

To be sure, I am a proud Republican and fiscal conservative but I respect Teller County residents who may have a different point of view.  I appreciate the fact that they trust me to share their perspectives, even if they differ from mine.  Surely, there are things all of us can agree on.   

All successful governments, citizen involvement boards, businesses and organization are successful because they encourage the open sharing of ideas for a better future.   In Teller County, even if we disagree, we know there are many things we do have in common – we love our children, we value our freedom, we worship the same God, we value our Western heritage and being neighborly, and we are all concerned about our future and well-being.   

As our County moves toward its decision to choose its leaders, it is important, to hear and see for yourself the kind of people they are.  I would encourage you to watch this rant yourself.  Just pull up Facebook, then search on @DRusterholtz.  I am not sure how long he will keep it up now that I called him out, but many of our residents, many of whom have contacted me, have seen it and have passed it along.  Of course, if words matter, my opponent began this campaign by stating that he is an  “unapologetic” person, so perhaps he will have the courage to keep it posted. 

Either way, you can click to see the transcript of what he said. 

My consistent pledge to you continues to be that when I am your County Commissioner I will protect the life, health and safety of ALL our residents.  Our demographic is changing rapidly, and those of us who have been in or associated with Teller County for many years, should lead by example in our behavior, decorum and lifestyle – particularly those of us asking for the privilege to serve you in public office.   To those who were and are offended by the angry words of some of us running for office, I would ask that you not judge the rest of us or the Republican Party as a whole.

                   Paid for by Dan Williams,                    Candidate for Teller County Commissioner
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