Steamboat man announces Senate bid
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
RIFLE, Colo. ” Water is the single biggest issue to Steamboat Springs Democrat Ken Brenner, who announced his candidacy for the Colorado State Senate early Monday morning in Rifle.
About 25 people, mostly Democrats and a sprinkling of Republicans, attended a breakfast meeting at the Creekbend Cafe on Third Street, which was followed at Heinze Park by an official announcement of Brenner’s running. He is seeking the District 8 seat, currently held by Republican Jack Taylor, also of Steamboat Springs, who must leave the office by the end of the year due to term limits.
In the frigid morning air, Brenner made the announcement with his wife, Pam, and sons, Daniel, 23, and Jacob, 17, standing at his side. Another son, Kenyon, 19, was unable to attend.
“This is a big, big responsibility, but I’m ready,” Brenner said with confidence.
At both gatherings, he pointed out that he was a third-generation Routt County resident and fourth-generation Coloradan who grew up on a large ranch in the Steamboat Springs area as the eldest of six children. He says the ranch has contributed not only to his work ethic, but to his appreciation of the importance of water.
“On a ranch, you basically work from when the sun comes up to when it goes down,” Brenner said. “I got my work ethic from growing up on the land, and I learned the value of water. Not everyone grows up on a ranch, but they can appreciate it.”
For Brenner, some of the main problems surrounding water are the lack of it and the diversion of water from the Western Slope to the Front Range.
“There is no extra water,” Brenner said. “We need the water that’s left here to take care of the growth in the communities and to protect our water rights. It’s one of the most important things we can do.”
One step may be to request funding that would allow monitoring of the water quantity being produced as well as the water quality.
“This is a huge issue that we don’t see being talked about,” Brenner said.
After a career that spans being a professional skiing coach, assistant surface mine engineer, carpenter and small business owner, Brenner currently works as a strength and conditioning coach and owner of a sports medicine clinic.
He didn’t get involved in politics until 1991, when his sister was killed by a car full of teenagers while she was jogging on the rugged Spring Creek Road in Steamboat Springs. The tragedy prompted Brenner to get involved with local, state and federal agencies to improve safety on the road and extend the access from town to the backcountry.
Brenner served as an advocate for the local ski club and on the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission before becoming a member of the Steamboat Springs City Council in 1998, where he was president from 2005-07. He has also been on the Routt County Planning Commission, was secretary and treasurer of the Colorado Municipal League, and has been involved with the Mountain Mayors group and other civic organizations.
Along with water, Brenner also stressed the importance of energy development in western Colorado and the need for balance.
“This is the perfect backdrop to talk about energy development,” Brenner said in Heinze Park as he pointed to the Roan Plateau, where the federal government has made a controversial decision to allow gas drilling. “We need to preserve wildlife habitat and recreational uses. We need to balance energy practices with economic development.”
Rifle Mayor Keith Lambert, a Democrat, voiced his support for Brenner for the District 8 seat.
“What better candidate than Ken Brenner?” Lambert asked. “He lives here, he’s been in this region and he understands rural western heritage and values. One of the most important concepts is that we have local control.”
State Rep. Al White, R-Hayden, and Eagle County Republican Muhammad Ali Hasan also have announced plans to run for the Senate.
Along with others, Lambert pointed out that White moved from Winter Park to Hayden to be in District 8 so he could run for Taylor’s seat.
“Can I use the word ‘carpetbagger’?” Lambert asked.
District 8 covers much of northwest Colorado and includes Garfield, Eagle, Rio Blanco, Moffat, Routt and Jackson counties. White contends that Winter Park was in District 8 until its lines were redrawn and that his House 57th District seat overlapped much of District 8 over the years.
Another potential Democratic candidate for the state Senate seat is Eagle County Commissioner Arn Menconi, who has previously said he had not yet decided if he would run, but would make his decision in January. Menconi was not available for comment Monday afternoon.
Along with Rifle, Brenner conducted rallies in Eagle, Glenwood Springs and Steamboat Springs Monday afternoon.
“Ken Brenner has been an unannounced candidate so far and he is going to change that right here in the city of Rifle,” Lambert said, introducing Brenner to the Rifle crowd. “This shows that he deems Rifle to be an important part of northwest Colorado.”
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