After 18 years in the Navy, Steamboat Springs resident Matt Aljanich appears ready to shift his focus to politics.
Aljanich, 37, will run as a Republican for the open 3rd Congressional District seat being vacated by Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Grand Junction. The 1984 graduate of Steamboat Springs High School submitted a ballot petition with almost 2,000 signatures to the Colorado Secretary of State's Office on Tuesday, said Kirsten Fedewa, Aljanich's political consultant.
An employee in the Secretary of State's Elections Division confirmed the submission and said the office was working to verify the signatures on the petition. Potential candidates had until Tuesday to file a ballot petition with at least 1,000 valid signatures from registered 3rd Congressional District voters.
Aljanich said his decision to run was influenced by his interest in public service and his concern for the important issues the country is facing.
His service in the Navy and Naval Reserves has included a tour of duty as an F-14 fighter pilot during the Gulf War, a stint as an exchange officer with the British Royal Air Force, and currently as a watch officer based at the Pentagon. He was transferred to the Pentagon as an anti-terrorism officer and for political and military work involving the Middle East, Aljanich said by telephone Wednesday.
Aljanich also is a commercial pilot for United Airlines and started a health care software company four years ago.
The most recent candidate to enter the crowded field of Republicans vying for McInnis' seat said he has been in the exploratory phase since January and has spoken at many Lincoln Day dinners across the 29-county district to gauge potential support for his candidacy.
Fellow Republicans expected to seek a spot on the November ballot include Greg Walcher, former director of the Department of Natural Resources, state Rep. Gregg Rippy, R-Glenwood Springs, state Rep. Matt Smith, R-Grand Junction, Pueblo County Sheriff Dan Corsentino and Delina DeSanto, a Durango real estate agent.
The two Democratic candidates are state Rep. John Salazar, D-Manassa, and Anthony Martinez, a former Secretary of State candidate and a Harvard graduate student. Salazar won a spot on the Colorado Democratic Party's Aug. 10 primary ballot when he received 69 percent of the votes from delegates at the state Democratic convention a couple of weeks ago.
Grand Junction Mayor Jim Spehar dropped out of the race after failing to garner 30 percent of the delegate votes at the convention.
Aljanich is a newcomer in a race checkered with candidates with previous political experience.
Nonetheless, Aljanich said a poll he commissioned revealed name recognition is low for all candidates, and he thinks his experience in the fields of defense and health care give him a decided advantage over the other candidates.
"The field is wide open," Aljanich said. "My challenge is to get my name ID up."
Aljanich has yet to file a campaign finance report, and some of his foes have raised upward of $200,000 in the hotly contested race. He said he is raising money and will file a report in time for the next reporting deadline.
"I think you'll see I'll be very competitive with the other candidates," Aljanich said.
Aljanich's mother, brother and sister live in Steamboat.
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