All three District 51 School Board candidates endorsed by the Mesa County Republican Party — Mike Lowenstein, Patrick Kanda and John Sluder — lost in yesterday’s election, the same three who had also taken financial support from C. Edward McVaney, a front range billionaire and private religious school supporter. The defeat of the GOP/Tea Party slate of candidates in Mesa County was remarkable since historically the area votes overwhelmingly Republican and off-year elections tend to favor Republican candidates. But none of these factors combined were enough to help the local GOP pull off even one win in the race. The Daily Sentinel reported that at an election-night gathering of GOP candidates at the Blue Moon Bar and Grill in downtown Grand Junction, Mike Lowenstein, one of the GOP’s candidates, said simply, “The people have voted and they’ll get what they deserve,” and walked out of the restaurant. The GOP’s big local loss came on the heels of the multi-week federal government shutdown, largely attributed nationally to tea party Republicans’ intransigence over the new Affordable Care Act. By endorsing candidates in a school board race, the Mesa County GOP also tread onto new ground, turning a historically nonpartisan race into a partisan challenge. It is no coincidence that the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce has also become political at the same time the GOP has started weighing in on traditionally nonpartisan races, since there is significant overlap between local GOP leaders and the Chamber, and the two entities often appear to be working together politically. Chambers of commerce in smaller Colorado towns typically remain apolitical to avoid offending any citizens and business owners who may not agree with their views. But the GOP and Chamber’s strategy of weighing in on traditionally non-partisan races seems to be backfiring big time. In addition to the local GOP’s stunning losses in the school board race, the Grand Junction Chamber has faced significant backlash from area citizens and business owners who feel the group has far overstepped its boundaries by becoming highly political.