Steamboat Springs Ken Brenner knew unseating Routt County Commissioner Dan Ellison would be a daunting task, but a mere 50 yards has eliminated the Steamboat Springs man from the race before a single vote can be cast.
Brenner, 48, was set to take on the 3rd District county commissioner in the Nov. 5 election as a representative of the Democratic Party.
The former Steamboat Springs City Councilman had started to raise funds and said he was excited about mobilizing a strong campaign against Ellison, a Republican.
"I wouldn't run for an office if I didn't think I had a good chance of winning," Brenner said.
About two months of work was thwarted in March when Brenner found out a decision county officials made last fall would take him out of the race.
When Routt County officials redrew the boundaries for the three districts in the county last fall, Brenner's home on Spring Creek Circle was impacted.
A portion of Precinct 19 Spring Creek Meadows subdivision was moved out of the 3rd District and into the 1st District.
When the Routt County Board of Commissioners approved of the changes, which were recommended by a committee, in September, Brenner no longer resided in the 3rd District but in the 1st District.
Because Brenner's home is no longer in the 3rd District, he cannot take aim at Ellison's seat, which he has held since 1994.
"It is kind of ironic that we have a situation where a person wants to run," Brenner said. "But I won't be allowed to run because I live 50 yards away from the line."
County district boundaries were changed because of state requirements.
After each census, state statutes require counties to redraw district boundaries to ensure the number of residents in each district is equal.
After the changes were made, the 1st District, South Routt County, has a population of 6,596.
The 2nd District, which is comprised of West and North Routt, was not impacted and has a population of 6,541 residents.
The 3rd District is the smallest geographically and consists of the majority of Steamboat Springs. This district has a population of 6,553 residents.
To get equal population in the three districts, county officials switched two precincts, along with the 19th Precinct portion.
"This was no way political," County Clerk Kay Weinland said of the changes. "This was done to make sure all three districts had equal populations."
The entire 3rd Precinct the Fairview neighborhood was moved out of the 3rd District and into the 1st District. To make up for the loss in population, county officials moved the 6th Precinct from the 1st District into the 3rd District.
So far, this precinct, which is located on the southern edge of Steamboat, has not produced a candidate to challenge Ellison.
Because of this and Brenner's inability to run, he said county issues will not be of much interest to residents.
"When there is only one candidate, there is no debate," Brenner said. "A contested race creates public interest.
"When you have a race, the hard questions get asked and residents want answers. It is not a good thing to have an uncontested race."
Because commissioners serve four-year terms, the elections for the three districts are staggered. In 2004, seats in the 1st and 2nd districts will be up for grabs.
At this point, Brenner said he does not know if he would seek the seat in the 1st District, which is currently held by Nancy Stahoviak.
Last November, Brenner lost his seat on the Steamboat Springs City Council to Loui Antonucci. Brenner served four years on the council.
Although he was seeking re-election, Brenner had been thinking about challenging Ellison in November for about a year.
After shaking off the loss in November, Brenner said running for the county seat was an easy choice.
"It was a tough election," Brenner said. "But supporters encouraged me to seek this office. They knew I was planning to run. It is a real privilege to be involved in public service."
Brenner blames himself for not raising any questions during the county's review of the new districts.
"It's my fault," he said. "It is typical the public doesn't engage the public process the way we should, and in this instance I failed. I didn't take that opportunity, and it took me out of a district I wanted to represent."
Brenner is hopeful someone from within the district will challenge Ellison.
"There is time for someone to step forward," he said. "It is not too late. But before they do anything, they should check the map."
At this point, Brenner's political future is cloudy. He remains active on boards that include First Impressions of Routt County and the Emerald Mountain Partnership. He also has applied for a seat on the Routt County Planning Commission.
"I plan to stay active," he said. "I'm not going anywhere."