Steamboat Springs There will be some big elephants in a room Saturday night in Steamboat Springs.
Two of the most influential Republicans in Colorado - Secretary of State Mike Coffman and Republican Party Chairman Dick Wadhams - will speak at the Routt County Republicans' annual Lincoln Day Dinner, which begins at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Old Town Pub & Restaurant.
The event is the county party's largest annual fundraiser and also features live and silent auctions, Republican-elected officials including state Sen. Jack Taylor of Steamboat Springs and state Rep. Al White of Winter Park, and an invocation by Pastor Kevin King of Anchor Way Baptist Church.
Local attorney Vance Halvorson, chairman of the Routt County Republican Central Committee, said Wed-
nesday that the event should make for "a very interesting and exciting evening."
Coffman is a contentious figure in Routt County.
In April, days after a visit to Steamboat Springs, Coffman placed Routt County on the state's Election Watch List, which includes four other counties that experienced election difficulties in November 2006.
Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak and Routt County Clerk and Recorder Kay Weinland, both Republicans, cited work to bring more voting machines and locations to Routt County, and expressed "strong disappointment" in Coffman's decision.
Wadhams has worked as a campaign manager on high-profile congressional races around the country. Political pundits have called Wadhams "Karl Rove's heir apparent" and "Rove 2.0" for his aggressive campaign tactics, which Colorado voters saw firsthand when Wadhams led successful campaigns for U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard in 1996 and 2002.
He replaced Bob Martinez as chair of the state Republican Party earlier this year.
"He's become rather re-
nowned in the Republican Party as a mover and shaker in terms of getting people elected," Halvorson said.
Halvorson added that Wadhams "has his hands all over" the School Finance Act signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Bill Ritter, a Democrat. The law freezes statutory property tax reductions in order to boost funding for school districts.
Ritter spokesman Evan Dreyer said Wednesday that the law "increases total funding for education in Colorado by $310 million, a 6.6 percent increase," which includes a $274,000 boost for the Moffat County School District in the 2007-08 fiscal year.
State Rep. Mike May of Parker called the law an "irresponsible" tax hike.
"That means our taxes will be dramatically going up. It's really going to hit us here in Routt County because of our highly-appreciating property," Halvorson said. "Steamboat has been very generous in approving tax hikes, but I'm not sure they're going to like this one. I think that will be a major political issue in the next election."
Halvorson hopes Saturday's Lincoln Dinner will galvanize local Republicans as the 2008 presidential election draws near.
"We hope to have a better outcome in the next election, and we're working towards that end," Halvorson said. "Hopefully we can get the party energized and moving forward."