by Dalton Carver
Lance Fitzgerald, an unaffiliated candidate running for Ouray County sheriff, has seemingly won a very tight race against Republican opponent Joel “BB” Burk. Despite Burk leading by nearly 30 votes after preliminary results Tuesday evening, an unofficial final count pushed Fitzgerald to the top by only .06 percent.
At the end of the count Tuesday night, 3,004 votes had been cast by county residents in the sheriff race. The votes were split nearly down the middle with 1,503 for Fitzgerald and 1,501 for Burk.
Overall, about 68.55 percent of registered voters in Ouray County cast their ballots in this year’s midterm elections.
A recount is possible, but only after outstanding ballots are accounted for by the clerk’s office.
The final results were released by the county clerk’s office a little after 11 p.m. Tuesday evening, showing Fitzgerald’s unofficial victory by two votes. However, the results won’t be final for eight days.
Michelle Nauer, county clerk and recorder, said there are still about 120 to 130 outstanding ballots to be counted Wednesday morning. About 115 of those are signature rejections that occurred during Tuesday evening’s count, which can be remedied by verification within the next eight days. Another 10 to 15 ballots from overseas have yet to be counted, as well as any other ballots floating around the state. Those ballots can also be counted within the next eight days.
“Technically, (a ballot) is considered received as long as it was in a drop box anywhere within the state of Colorado,” said Nauer. “I don’t know how many are out there yet.”
Nauer said she’ll know if there will be a recount after the eight-day window. If the sheriff’s race is still close at that point, she said, there will be a recount.
Fitzgerald entered the race as an unaffiliated candidate after his petition was accepted by the county clerk’s office July 12. He was allowed to begin circulating petitions May 17. Fitzgerald was on a primary ballot. Burk announced his intention to run for the office in early 2018 and was on the primary ballot, as well as endorsed by the Ouray County Republican Party. The official winner of the race will replace Dominic “Junior” Mattivi as the sheriff of Ouray County.