Kathleen Curry vows to take write-in fight to ‘very end’

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Rep. Kathleen Curry

ASPEN – State Rep. Kathleen Curry is determined to do what she says hasn’t been done before in Colorado – win a seat in the Statehouse as a write-in candidate. While she’s at it, Curry intends to become the first unaffiliated candidate to win election to the Legislature since 1891.

The three-term legislator, a former Democrat who is now an unaffiliated lawmaker, is faced with convincing voters to write her name on the ballot. She is in Aspen early this week, reaching out to constituents.

None turned up during the hour she made herself available at the Aspen fire station on Monday, though. Later in the day, Curry planned to stop by the Aspen City Council meeting, and she is scheduled for face time with Pitkin County commissioners at noon Tuesday.

In Pitkin County, voters are focused on Tuesday’s primary, which includes contested county races for county commissioner and sheriff, reasoned Curry, explaining Monday’s absent audience.

Curry, 50, awaits an appellate court ruling, expected by Sept. 3, that could place her name on the November ballot, along with her challengers, Republican Luke Korkowski and Democrat Roger Wilson. Either way, if she’s elected, the lawmaker plans to introduce legislation in her fourth term to “tweak” state election laws and even the playing field for unaffiliated candidates, she said.

She’s not on the ballot because Colorado law required unaffiliated candidates to declare themselves 17 months before the election. Curry successfully introduced a bill in the last session to change that timing, effective in 2012. The legislation, signed by the governor, sets the deadline as the first business day in January of the election year.

“It looked too self-serving to have it apply in this cycle,” she explained.

For the November election, the Colorado secretary of state has ruled voters must both ink the write-in box on the ballot and write in Curry’s name. (Just her last name will do, but just her first name won’t.)

Among the other tweaks she’d like to effect: Counting any ballot with a write-in candidate’s name on it regardless of whether or not the box is filled in.

“We should always put the voter first. Right now, we put the [voting] machine first,” she said.

Ballots with the marked write-in box will be noted by voting machines and then examined by each county’s resolution board to determine if it’s Curry’s name that a voter has written on the ballot. No name, only her first name, or the wrong name means she won’t get that vote.

Curry would also like the resolution board, which must include one Democrat and one Republican under the law, to include an unaffiliated voter, or a representative of any minor party if that party has a write-in candidate in the running.

Curry figures she can convince many of the roughly 37,000 voters in District 61 to write in her name. After all, 43 percent of them are also unaffiliated, and she’s also counting on some support from Democrats who’ve supported her in the past. Name recognition is also an advantage, she said.

Unaffiliated voters have been expressing optimism about her chances, Curry added.

“They haven’t been brainwashed into believing you can’t do this,” she said.

District 61 encompasses Pitkin County, the eastern half of Garfield County, about a third of Eagle County on the Roaring Fork Valley side, and Gunnison and Hinsdale counties.

Curry is reaching out with appearances, and plans to get in touch with voters via mail and by telephone – supporters will make calls, though, it won’t be an automated “robo-call,” she declared.

And, if she does not prevail, Curry said she will test a provision of state law that allows a voter to contest the outcome of an election based on any of several complaints, including the inappropriate accepting or rejecting of ballots.

There are conflicting state laws regarding write-in candidacies – one indicates the write-in box must be filled in and the candidate’s name written on the ballot; the other only requires that the candidate’s name be written in the space provided. That may mean some untold number of votes for Curry, in which the box was not filled in, aren’t counted.

“I see this as a voter-intent state,” she said. “If a person writes my name in and their ballot doesn’t count, I’m going to contest it.

I will take this to the very end,” she vowed. “They don’t know who they’ve decided to mess with.”

Curry has also filed suit against the governor and secretary of state’s office, The Associated Press reported this week, arguing Colorado’s campaign contribution rules are unfair to candidates who don’t belong to the two major parties.

Major party candidates can collect the maximum contributions twice – once for the primary and again for the general election, but unaffiliated candidates can receive the contribution only once, as they don’t generally run a primary campaign.

“I’m happy with being on my own,” Curry said of her unaffiliated status, “but I sure didn’t know the campaign finance thing. That was news to me.”

Aside from election reform, Curry said she has some unfinished business to tackle if she is elected to a fourth and final term in the Colorado House.

The lawmaker said she’d like to strengthen the Western Slope’s position should downstream states that are part of the Colorado River Compact make a call for water. The water should go where it’s needed rather than diverted to the Front Range to water lawns, she said.

Curry wants to continue the battle to ensure landowners are compensated if they suffer unreasonable damage as a result of oil and gas activity in cases where the landowner owns the surface rights but not the mineral rights on their property.

“Some progress was made, but there’s more we can do,” she said.


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