Steamboat Springs State Rep. Al White, R-Winter Park, appears to have overcome the challenges of adapting to a new legislative district and Democratic opponent Terry Carwile of Craig in his bid for a second term in the state Legislature.
With precinct counts still trickling in at midnight, White commanded almost 58 percent of the vote. He led 10,539 to 6,180 over Carwile, with votes still to be counted in Routt, Rio Blanco, Jackson and Garfield counties. Moffat and Grand counties are also in the district. Libertarian candidate Mike Plylar of Kremmling and American Constitution Party candidate Zane Newitt were picking up a handful of votes in each county.
Carwile knew shortly after 9 p.m. his candidacy was in trouble. With half the precincts reporting in his home county of Moffat, Carwile said he was about 500 votes behind White.
"That's not good," Carwile said.
Ultimately, Carwile was defeated 2,621 to 1,766 in his home county. Notably, with six precincts reporting, Carwile held onto a narrow lead over White in Routt County, 907 to 899.
White said Carwile ran a spirited campaign that kept him working hard.
"I give Terry a lot of credit," White said. "Anybody's record can be spun in a negative fashion, but Terry did not do that to me. I respect him for that."
Carwile knew going into the race that even his home county favored registered Republicans to Democrats by a margin of 2-to-1. However, he counted on picking up a strong labor vote as well as attracting moderate Republicans who identified with his message.
White won his first bid for the Colorado House of Representatives in 2000 when he claimed House District 56. However, legislative redistricting mandated by the 2000 Census forced White to establish himself in the new District 57. The new district left White without a significant power base in resort-dominated Eagle County but presented him with the Republican-dominated Northwest Colorado energy towns of Craig (Moffat County), Meeker (Rio Blanco County) and Rifle (western Garfield County).
The legislative redistricting also presented White with his opponent. Carwile, a coal mine employee, sought to tap into the traditional Democratic strength among labor unions and made an appeal to moderate Republicans based on his staunch support of local governmental control.
"That was the thrust of the campaign, to capture as much of the Democratic base as possible as well as the unaffiliated voters and enough Republicans from this end of the district," Carwile said.
One of the biggest changes in the district has been its sheer girth.
In the old 56th, the longest trip White made from his home in Winter Park was to Hayden, a distance of 115 miles. Now, he must travel as far west as Rangely to visit his constituents. Rangely is 230 miles from Winter Park. In the last weeks of the campaign, he made three trips that involved overnight stays in the western part of the new 57th district.
"I have an obligation to get out and introduce myself even though I've got a Republican edge," White said. "I'm determined to do it."
Carwile said he clearly didn't succeed in attracting moderate Republicans.