Steamboat Springs A Republican primary could be in the works for the state Senate District 8 seat being vacated by term-limited Sen. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs.
Eagle County resident Muhammad Ali Hasan - who has been traveling throughout Northwest Colorado sponsoring fundraisers for local Republican parties, including the Routt Shootout on Sept. 15 - confirmed Thursday he is considering a run for the seat.
State Rep. Al White, R-Winter Park, Taylor's ally in the state Legislature, announced his candidacy for the seat earlier this month. White, like Taylor, is term-limited in the state House of Representatives.
"I'm being encouraged here in Eagle County and by party leadership to run for something," Hasan said. "It's something I'm still thinking about."
Hasan, who said he expects to make a decision in November or December, said he has been encouraged to run for everything from Eagle County Commissioner to the U.S. Congress. Hasan said he doesn't believe he can add a lot to either of those positions, but thought he might be an asset to Senate District 8.
"I wouldn't run against anyone I think could be a better representative than me," Hasan said. "At this point, I'm not convinced (White) would be the best candidate."
Senate District 8 includes all of Moffat, Routt, Jackson and Rio Blanco counties, as well as parts of Eagle and Garfield counties.
Hasan stressed that he respects White as a person and his tenure in the state House, but said he has disagreements with White's policy decisions, claiming the representative has put Denver interests ahead of those of the Western Slope.
White said he doesn't think 27-year-old Hasan, who has never served in an elected capacity, is old enough to have developed the judgment and character necessary in an elected representative.
"I feel like he is not ready for the position," White said. "He doesn't have a lot of life experience to bring to the table."
White called allegations that he has put Front Range interests ahead of the Western Slope "hogwash."
"I have been looking out for Western Slope interests since I entered office," White said. "It's a totally fallacious statement and without justification."
Hasan was hesitant to mention specific names of people in the party leadership who are encouraging him to run. He said it was a collection of party officials and people who have served. He said Colorado Republican Chairman Dick Wadhams and former U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis are two people who have encouraged him to consider elected office.
Wadhams and McInnis also are two people who White has counted in his corner, among others.
"The truth is, anybody who is in the Republican leadership is pretty much in support of me," White said.
Wadhams described Hasan as an "energetic, bright young man who I think we're going to hear a lot from in the future." Wadhams said he has encouraged Hasan to get involved in the Republican Party, but has not specifically encouraged him to run for Senate District 8, where White "would be a very formidable Republican candidate."
"I regard Rep. White as an outstanding elected official," Wadhams said. "I think Al would start out with a huge advantage if there was a primary situation."
McInnis was traveling and could not be reached Thursday. Susan Smith, a spokeswoman for the former congressman, said McInnis has "encouraged Hasan to consider public service opportunities in the state House and Senate." Smith added that McInnis believes there is a strong selection of candidates for the seat, including White.
Hasan said he was born and raised in Pueblo and that his parents bought a home in Eagle County when he was 10. Hasan's parents are from Central and South Asia and are, like Hasan, devout Muslims.
Hasan said he doesn't believe his ethnicity or religion would hinder him from being elected in District 8.
"I've worked with a lot of people on the Western Slope," Hasan said. "I don't feel they're racist."
Hasan is the owner and CEO of land development company Sangre De Cristo Capital in Avon. He is also an independent filmmaker, and he said he worked as a teacher in the Los Angeles public school system. While in college in California, Hasan said he worked for an environmental scientist. He believes that makes him well suited to address Western Slope issues such as water, oil and natural gas.
"I feel I can speak competently to those issues," Hasan said.
Hasan writes a bi-weekly column for the Vail Daily and is the founder of the political organization Muslims for America, formerly Muslims for Bush.
Should he choose to run, Hasan would face a daunting opponent in White. After first being elected in 2000, White has won the past three campaigns for House District 57. In November 2006, he won a strong victory against Democratic challenger Andy Gold of Tabernash, despite an election that saw widespread victories for Democrats across the country, state and nation.
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