Routt County rancher and Democrat Jay Fetcher told a gathering of family members and supporters at the courthouse Wednesday night that he's ready to take another run at state office.
Fetcher formally declared his candidacy for Colorado Senate District 8 and is hopeful he will not face a primary election in August. The Democratic candidate presumably would face state Sen. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs, in the fall election, though Taylor has not formally announced his intentions. Fetcher narrowly lost his bid for House District 56 to Al White of Winter Park in 2000.
Noting that the Governor's Office and both houses of the Legislature are controlled by Republicans, Fetcher said he would like to begin to restore an equilibrium between the two major parties in state government.
"We need to create a different balance in Denver," Fetcher said. "We need to have different voices. I think good government comes from a political balance."
Fetcher lost his race for the Legislature against White by 326 votes out of more than 19,000 ballots cast in 2000. Taylor won a close victory over Democrat Paul Ohri of Kremmling that year in the Senate race.
Fetcher said he would face difficult odds in Senate District 8, which comprises Moffat, Routt, Jackson, Rio Blanco and parts of Eagle and Garfield counties. About 47 percent of voters in the district are Republicans and about 43 percent are Democratic, he explained.
"I know the numbers are slanted against me," Fetcher said. "It's an uphill battle, but I want to take on the challenge."
Fetcher promised a different style of campaigning in 2004 from the campaign he mounted in 2000, when he said he would accept speaking engagements during the summer but wouldn't actively "knock on doors" and seek out voters until the fall.
This time around, Fetcher said he would stay on his Elk River ranch through calving season but would begin campaigning in earnest during the summer. He estimates he will need to raise at least $90,000 in campaign funds.
"Al White was very formidable in terms of being out there more," Fetcher said. "I need to make myself much more visible."
Fetcher thinks that legislative action in recent years has been shortsighted and has traded the state's future for short-term benefits.
"I'm concerned that what we've been doing at the state Capitol in Denver is too selfish. It's not about what I need, but what my children and grandkids need," Fetcher said.
Fetcher said it was regrettable that during a time of state budget surplus several years ago, the Legislature enacted permanent tax cuts.
"The tax cuts were permanent, and that's really hurt us," Fetcher said. "I would take those issues back to the voters. We all enjoyed the rebates when we had the surplus -- it's hurting us now."
Fetcher said he has been following the legislative debate over ways to ease the impacts of constitutional amendments that have combined to constrain state government's fiscal flexibility.
Fetcher said he would favor asking the voters to balance adjustments to the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, with an adjustment to Amendment 23 (school funding) by suspending a 1 percent annual increase while retaining annual adjustments for inflation.
Fetcher was president of the Steamboat Springs School Board for four years and expects his role in education to aid his candidacy.
He said he remains a strong supporter of local controls, and applauded the recent resolution of the Steamboat Springs Montessori and school district issue at the local level. He added that he thinks land and water conservation are vital to the success of the tourism industry.
Fetcher said he is opposed to solving traffic issues on the Interstate 70 corridor within the district by widening the highway. He would prefer a creative solution such as the much-discussed I-70 monorail.
"We need to look at how we can solve that without more concrete," he said.