Diverse field of five to vie for House seat
August 21, 2012
The Nov. 6 contest to represent Colorado’s House District 61, which includes Pitkin County, is shaping up as a five-way race, according to a recent listing by the Secretary of State’s Office.
State Rep. Millie Hamner, a Dillon Democrat, is the only elected official in the field. She currently represents House District 56, but her place of residence was redrawn into District 61 during December’s redistricting process in the state General Assembly.
Unofficially, Hamner faces former state Rep. Kathleen Curry, of Gunnison, who is unaffiliated with any political party; Debra Irvine, a Breckenridge Republican; Robert Petrowsky, of Leadville, a member of the American Constitution Party; and Ellen Temby, a Libertarian Party candidate from Breckenridge. There’s still time for changes to the lineup; the field doesn’t become official until Sept. 15, 30 days before ballots are sent to mail-in voters.
“I think it’s going to be a really good campaign season,” Curry said Monday. “We all bring something different to the table.”
Geographically, Curry said, the district she used to represent has changed considerably, losing most of the Roaring Fork Valley, including Carbondale, Glenwood Springs and Eagle County. It now takes in eastern Delta County and all of Summit and Lake counties. It retains all of Pitkin County and the northern half of Gunnison County.
Curry, a former Democrat, held the House District 61 seat from 2004 to 2010. She broke with the Democratic Party in 2009 after a spat over health care legislation and other issues and then ran a write-in campaign as an unaffiliated candidate in 2010, losing to Democrat Roger Wilson, of Glenwood Springs. Wilson is not seeking re-election to his new district.
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Curry, who always has been known for her independent voice in the political arena, doesn’t regret leaving the party.
“The Democratic leadership in the House became a lot more partisan,” she recalled. “There was a lot of arm-twisting.”
She said she’s been traveling the district in recent weeks, attending various meetings in an effort to get to know the concerns of her potential constituents. She recently opened a campaign office in Frisco to establish a presence in Summit County, which has more than 13,000 active voters, 5,750 of whom are not affiliated with a party. Comparatively, eastern Delta County has around 10,200 active voters, and Pitkin County has around 8,700.
One of the chief concerns throughout the district, Curry said, is a lack of water for farms and ranches due to the drought, especially in Delta County. Other counties in the district face the problem of how to manage their water supplies given their obligations to distribute much of it to the Front Range.
Curry said she hears a lot about economic problems throughout the district, though not in Pitkin County. If elected, she said she would work to raise tourism marketing funds to assist Aspen and other resort communities in the district.
“I spent a lot of time in Denver trying to convince my colleagues that those tourism marketing dollars really do pay off,” she said.
Hamner, a former superintendent of schools in Summit County, was unopposed in the Democratic primary in late June. She said she’s also been spending the summer “getting to know the new people” in her district and that she will visit Aspen on Wednesday for the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.
“I think people in the district right now are worried about wildfires, the health of the forests and water,” she said. “They are concerned about adequate water quantity and quality. They are concerned about the amount of water going to the Front Range.”
She spoke of her successful bill to strengthen the state’s stalking laws in the wake of the 2010 death of a Leadville woman at the hands of her stalker. The former educator also said she would continue to fight for funding increases for education and early child care along with long-term improvements to Interstate 70, which would enhance transportation options between mountain resorts. The state recently embarked on a study to determine the feasibility of high-speed transit along the I-70 corridor, she said.
“A lot of the construction projects you see on I-70 are short-term solutions,” she said.
Hamner was appointed to her legislative post by the state Democratic Central Committee when House 56 incumbent Christine Scanlan resigned from the seat to join Gov. John Hickenlooper’s new administration.
Irvine declined to speak with The Aspen Times on Monday, saying she doesn’t conduct media interviews by phone. A professional artist, she bested anti-government candidate David Justice during the Republican primary in June with 53.4 percent of the vote. She unsuccessfully ran for the House District 56 seat in 2010, losing to Scanlan.
She opened a speech in April with a favorite quote attributed to President Ronald Reagan: “What are the 10 scariest words in the English language? ‘Hi, I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.'”
According to a written statement, she also spoke of getting “back to a place where incentive equals prosperity. Where hard work is rewarded and not distributed to someone else.”
Petrowsky is a 911 dispatcher in Eagle County. He said he opposes big government spending and wants to see a return to constitutional values.
“Lately it seems that Republicans and Democrats all have the same things to offer,” he said.
In a letter to the Summit Daily News in June, Petrowsky laid out his political platform and his opposition to the “status quo.”
“The Constitution lays out word for word what ground the U.S. government can own, and I don’t see forests or BLM listed anywhere. For that matter, I don’t see education, oil production, agriculture or a multitude of other powers. Why do we still trust them to manage our backyard? Our children?”
Temby’s contact information was not available Monday.