Wednesday, August 11, 2004
The man who calls Steamboat Springs home as often as his busy schedule allows finished last in Tuesday's five-way Republican primary race for the 3rd Congressional District.
But Matt Aljanich's first attempt at elected office likely won't be his last. The 37-year-old Steamboat Springs High School graduate is quick to emphasize, however, that his interest in politics has nothing to do with an interest in becoming a politician.
Aljanich's late decision to run for the congressional seat was "issue-driven," he said Wednesday. His campaign focus was on improving homeland security and health care and continuing the fight against terrorism -- issues with which he has considerable experience.
Aljanich has spent 17 years in the Navy, including a stint as the youngest pilot of an F-14 Tomcat. He's a decorated Gulf War veteran and has spent the past several years working on anti-terrorism issues with the Naval Command Center. He also is the co-founder of a health-care software company that specializes in streamlining the credentialing process for doctors and other medical professionals.
As long as homeland security and health care continue to be issues important to Americans, Aljanich will consider another run at elected office.
Whether he is again a candidate for the 3rd Congressional District largely depends on the outcome of November's general election; Aljanich said he wouldn't run against a GOP incumbent in 2006.
Kirsten Fedewa, Aljanich's campaign advisor and spokeswoman, said the former all-state basketball player has a promising future in politics. In just a couple of months, Aljanich was able to attract respectable support from across the giant 3rd Congressional District without the advantages of a large campaign fund, significant media coverage and name recognition.
"It's very hard to win unless you've run before," Fedewa said.
With a grass-roots organization already in place and no negatives attached to Aljanich's name or resume, he could be a very successful candidate.
"His political future certainly holds a lot of possibilities," Fedewa said. "Matt's made a good entry."
In the meantime, Aljanich plans to return to his duties as a lieutenant commander in the Navy Reserves, which means a return to the Pentagon later this month. Rejoining United Airlines, for whom he is a pilot, is still up in the air. Aljanich said he plans to resume his flight duties with the commercial carrier but that the possibility of finding work with the State Department or intelligence groups intrigues him.
He'll continue to return to Steamboat as often as he can, if for nothing else than to visit his mother and two siblings.
And he won't let Tuesday's defeat or work in Washington, D.C., prevent him from maintaining a focus on locally important issues such as veteran's benefits.
"There's a lot of people that put their trust and faith in me to carry that message, and I'm going to do it, elected or not," Aljanich said.