Steamboat Springs Al White's campaign trademark was a pair of life-sized photographic cardboard cutouts of himself leaning on a campaign sign. White, the Republican candidate for House District 56, which includes Routt County, became a familiar sight on area roads in October, with the two "replica Als" propped up along the highway in succession with the genuine article third in line, and waving animatedly. The visual gag caused giggles among morning commuters from Steamboat to Vail.
Clark-area rancher Jay Fetcher, White's Democratic opponent, resisted the temptation to make his own cardboard cutouts, but a trio of Fetcher supporters were positioned at the intersection of U.S. Highway 40 and Thirteenth Street in Steamboat first thing Monday morning, where they could catch the eye of voters on the way to work.
Fetcher and White are seeking to replace State Rep. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs, representing four-plus counties on Colorado's Western Slope at the state Legislature. In addition to Routt County, the district includes Jackson, Grand and Eagle counties and a small portion of Garfield County.
White acknowledged on election eve he doesn't expect to carry the vote in Fetcher's home county.
"I don't expect to win Routt County," White said. "If I can split Routt, I'd be tickled. I'm not just running against Jay, I'm running against an icon, John Fetcher (Jay's father), and his son."
White was referring to the fact that Fetcher was instrumental in the founding of the Steamboat Ski Area and is known statewide for his work on water issues.
Jay Fetcher said he spent three hours in Walden on Saturday greeting about 75 people, then shifted his attention to Vail and Eagle County Sunday night and much of Monday. In Vail, he said he stood in traffic roundabouts and waved signs at motorists. By Monday afternoon, he was back on Lincoln Avenue, making a final impression on voters.
Fetcher said he really can't predict the outcome of his race, but he's got one scenario in mind that could result in a win for his candidacy. If he and White defend their home turf, and split Eagle County, Fetcher believes the election could come out in his favor. He based that prediction on the fact that there are more registered voters in Routt County (16,231) than in Grand County (about 9,200).
"If I take Routt in a reasonable manner, and he takes Grand in a reasonable manner, and if we split Eagle, it looks like I would make it," Fetcher said.
The wild cards are Jackson County and the city of Carbondale, the primary portion of Garfield County included in the 56th District.
In Jackson County, there are 222 registered Democrats, 800 Republicans and 250 unaffiliated voters. Carbondale has 1,200 unaffiliated voters, 700 Republicans and 1,000 Democrats.
White said his campaign got a boost Saturday when Congressman Scott McInnis called his home and asked, "Where are you campaigning today?" White said McInnis, who is running for re-election, drove from Grand Junction and met him at the corner of Lincoln Avenue and Third Street for a half-hour session of waving at passing motorists in Steamboat Springs.
On the down side, White said 8,000 pieces of his campaign literature targeted at unaffiliated voters got lost in the mail and never reached those voters.
"I don't know what impact that's going to have," White said. "I feel very good about Eagle County."
When he wasn't out on the highway with his surrogates, White campaigned on the themes of increased pay for teachers, protecting small businesses and free enterprise, preserving agriculture, property and water rights, balancing environmental protection with resource management and recreation, and local control of growth and affordable-housing issues.
During campaign appearances, White said he believes the public lands in District 56 should be managed from the bottom up, with local input to regional forest managers, instead of directives passed down from Washington.
He said he has worked hard to foster affordable housing in his community and believes different levels of government will have to work together to create new opportunities in housing.
Fetcher, a working cattle rancher who mentions his 350 cows during campaign appearances, wasn't shy about saying he wants to become one of the last remaining voices for agriculture at the state capital.
"The ag voice is disappearing in Denver," Fetcher said during the campaign. "I want to make certain there's a voice in the Legislature of someone who is actually working in agriculture." He is a founding member of the Colorado Cattlemen's Agricultural Land Trust.
Fetcher is also a former Steamboat Springs School Board president and emphasized his commitment to education during the campaign.
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