Politics nationally and locally are heating up in earnest now, as can be observed in the 11th Judicial District contest for District Attorney.
The recent endorsement of Democratic incumbent Kaitlin Turner, by three sheriffs in Park, Fremont and Custer counties, has drawn the ire of some local Republican Party leaders.
Turner is being opposed by Republican challenger Linda Stanley. Some Republican party leaders, such as Fremont County Republican Central Committee Chair R.A. “Bob” Dewey, strongly support Stanley and levied harsh public criticism against the sheriffs for their endorsement of Turner.
Sheriffs publically endorsing Turner included Tom McGraw of Park County, Shannon Byerly of Custer County and Allen Cooper of Fremont County. They announced their support for Turner via a joint statement released Aug. 13.
Dewey, along with Republican county chairs in both Chaffee and Park counties, released a statement of their own Aug. 16 expressing displeasure with the sheriffs’ endorsements and reinforcing their collective support for Stanley.
According to McGraw, the decision to endorse Turner for the district attorney’s post has more to do with job performance than politics. McGraw, who successfully ran as a Republican in 2018 to become Park County Sheriff, also says he does not believe Turner’s party affiliation is central to her viability as the district’s chief prosecutor.
“After working with her [Turner], we have been very satisfied with our relationship,” McGraw said. “She is always available, very competent and we feel she is the best person for this position. And in the case of district attorneys, party affiliation is not really as important as it might be in many other positions.”
Turner, meanwhile, is predictably pleased to have the support of sheriffs she has been working with in her capacity as district attorney.
“My office works hand-in-hand with law enforcement to hold criminals accountable and ensure that their constitutional rights are upheld,” Turner said. “The sheriffs’ endorsement demonstrates the success we’ve had during my time in office in accomplishing our public safety mission together. I’m grateful for all of the support I continue to receive from all of the law enforcement agencies throughout the district.”
The sheriffs’ Aug. 3 joint endorsement of Turner is printed below in its entirety, as is the joint statement coordinated and produced by Dewey Aug. 16.
Sheriffs’ joint statement:
Turner for District Attorney
For the citizens of the 11th Judicial District, comprised of Chaffee, Custer, Fremont and Park Counties, a critical race for District Attorney is part of the election cycle in November. Your elected Sheriffs work closely with the District Attorney’s Office daily, and we believe it is important to share with you who we believe is the most qualified candidate to represent them as their district attorney. Kaitlin Turner was chosen to fill the vacated position in 2019 and since her appointment we have experienced a significant change in the operations of the District Attorney’s Office. Here are a few of the examples of the improvements we have experienced in the first year Ms. Turner has served our district.
More open communication with transport staff in regard to extraditions
More positive communication between the offices
Scheduled monthly meetings with the chief law enforcement officers in the district to address concerns and present questions for future solutions
More professionalism from the office and her staff
Now have DA/ADA coming to crime scenes for legal assistance and advice
Fewer plea agreements
Fewer reduction of charges in serious cases
Willingness to work with us on all cases
Actually listens to and considers our arguments, especially in nuisance cases
Warrant application review before judicial issuance to provide insight into cases early in prosecution
Provided report-writing training to detention staff
Willingness to prosecute black market marijuana cases
Attends staff meetings with the investigation division
Streamlined report reviews (in progress but working well)
In addition to the items listed above, we have experienced a level of candor and personal integrity that is refreshing. The elected sheriffs believe it is critical to elect the most qualified person to the District Attorney’s Office and we believe Kaitlin Turner is the candidate who will continue to grow the office and develop staff to perform the critical duties of District Attorney. We ask you to support her candidacy in the coming election.
Park County Sheriff
Custer County Sheriff
Fremont County Sheriff
Fremont County Republican Central Committee
Almost two weeks ago, we became aware of an email sent to local law enforcement agencies in the four counties that represent the 11th Judicial District (Chaffee, Park, Fremont and Custer Counties). Interestingly, the email stated that all four Sheriffs in the 11th JD and Chief Johnson of Salida have agreed to sign a recently released letter of support for the current Democrat District Attorney, Kaitlin Turner.
On August 13th that letter was released with only three Sheriffs’ signatures out of at least 18 separate law enforcement agencies that encompass the 11th Judicial District. Those three Sheriffs are Sheriff Allen Cooper of Fremont County, Sheriff Tom McGraw of Park County, and Sheriff Shannon Byerly of Custer County. These three Sheriffs are actively turning their back on their Republican Party and endorsing an appointed Democrat candidate who has been auditioning as District Attorney for a year (by design) simply doing a better job than the previous District Attorney’s administration.
Respectfully, as Chairman of the Fremont County Republican Central Committee, I and my fellow Republican County Chairs in both Chaffee and Park Counties do not approve, endorse, or agree with these three Sheriffs’ decision in this critical Judicial District 11 election for District Attorney.
These three Sheriffs are totally ignoring the Republican candidate for JD11 District Attorney Linda Stanley and her qualifications to be District Attorney. As Republican County chairmen, we have taken the time to speak with and really get to know Linda Stanley, the Republican candidate. We have concluded that she has the qualifications, intelligence, background and actual law enforcement experience to be an outstanding District Attorney.
R.A. “Bob” Dewey