House District 61 race heating up
Summit Daily News
Aspen, CO Colorado
BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. – Hopefuls are lining up to toss their hats in the ring for the state House District 61 seat, representing Summit, Lake, Pitkin, and parts of Gunnison and Delta counties, which will be up for grabs in November.
HD56 incumbent Millie Hamner (D-Dillon) who was drawn into the new district during the redistricting process last year, and Summit County Republicans leader Debra Irvine, of Breckenridge, will both bid for the seat.
A fresh face out of Delta County, Republican Matt Soper is also considering a bid for HD61.
Irvine ran unsuccessfully for Summit County’s former House District 56 in 2010, losing to Democratic incumbent Christine Scanlan. Scanlan was soon tapped to join newly elected Gov. John Hickenlooper’s administration and former Summit School District superintendent Millie Hamner was appointed to replace her.
Irvine is expected to officially announce her candidacy at noon Friday on the steps of the Summit County courthouse in Breckenridge. In a brief interview Thursday ahead of her public statement, she said her reasons for running this year are the same as they were in 2010.
“I want to serve the community and I want to serve the state,” Irvine said.
Hamner, who announced plans to run again last year, said she expected opposition.
“I’ve known all along I would have an opponent and that I would work hard to earn the trust of my constituents and earn this seat in November,” Hamner said. “I look forward to a vigorous, positive campaign on the issues facing our Western Slope communities.”
For both of Summit County’s returning candidates, the new district represents a different set of constituents and issues.
The former HD56, which included Eagle, Lake and Summit counties, was a stronghold for the Democrats made up primarily of mountain ski communities.
House District 61 may prove to be more of a wild card. The new district includes resort areas Aspen and Crested Butte, along with Summit County, but also encompasses rural mining and ranching communities. The former HD61 belonged to Independent Gunnison legislator Kathleen Curry for three terms before she lost a write-in campaign to Democrat Rodger Wilson in 2010.
By the numbers, the new HD 61 could go to either party. Considered competitive, registered Democrats make up nearly 32 percent of the electorate in the district, registered Republicans have 29 percent of the vote, while the majority – slightly more than 38 percent – are unaffiliated voters.
But newcomer Soper may change the dynamics of the race, if he does decide to run. The 27-year-old Delta County native recently returned to Colorado after getting a law degree from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. He bills himself as a homegrown Coloradan and rural Western Slope candidate.
“It’s really a unique opportunity to be able to represent the people you grew up with,” Soper said. “For me it’s more a noble calling, a passion, not so much an ego trip. It’s definitely about public service.”
Soper said he has been in talks with Irvine and party leaders about his candidacy and, with her bid set to be formally announced today, will make a final decision on whether to run by the end of the week.
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