Two vie for GOP seat

Former cops contend for District 57 nod

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— Two Grand County men with police backgrounds are vying to become the Republican candidate to replace outgoing state Rep. Al White in House District 57.

Dan Korkowski of Grand Lake and Randy Baumgardner of Hot Sulphur Springs are campaigning for the chance to face local Democrat Todd Hagenbuch in the district that includes Routt, Grand, Moffat, Garfield, Rio Blanco and Jackson counties.

Although Korkowski now works for the city of Grand Lake and owns a video rental store, and Baumgardner works on his ranch, both men spent time in uniform.

Korkowski, 53, is from Illinois, where he graduated from Western Illinois University and worked for the Champaign County Sheriff's Office. He worked for Miami's Metro-Dade Sheriff's Office before moving to Aurora in 1983.

After 13 years on the Aurora force, and nearly 20 years total as a police officer, Korkowski blew out a knee while on duty. Four partially successful surgeries left him able to walk without problems but unable to run, so he retired from law enforcement.

He then moved to Grand Lake, where he worked building log homes and eventually purchased the Moose Stop video rental store, which he manages with his wife, Jill.

He also works part-time for the city as a code enforcement officer and prepares legislation for the city council. Korkowski said that work inspired him to run for public office.

"I felt like that with Al retiring, that we needed to have someone who is somewhat experienced with writing and looking at laws to take over for Al and represent the district. I've been doing public service for a long time," Korkowski said. "I know I don't have any personal agendas here so I don't have anything going on board to try to push. I just want to do what's right for the people of the state."

Korkowski's platform includes working on five issues facing the district: water rights and conservation; management of forests and public lands, especially relating to beetle-killed pine; retaining health workers in small communities; attainable housing; and responsible exploration and development of the energy industry.

Korkowski said his experience working with legislation provide him with the attributes needed for a state representative.

"I have the better qualifications for what a legislator needs to do, which is to legislate," he said.

"Especially in knowing how to interpret, how to write and how to present laws to get them passed or get them changed."

Rancher perspective

Baumgardner also spent time on the police force.

Born and raised in Indiana, Baumgardner grew up on a dairy farm and has said he has been involved in agriculture most of his life. He attended Indiana University Southeast for a couple semesters before becoming a police officer.

After five years on the force, he took a job for an automobile industrial company where he worked for the next 19 years, first in the maintenance department for 14 years before becoming a supervisor.

Baumgardner moved to Colorado in 1994 and began working on the Chimney Rock Ranch about three miles outside Hot Sulphur Springs.

On his ranch, he raises hay and owns about 60 head of natural Black Angus cattle. During the summer months he leases cattle to bring his headcount up to about 350. He is also the lead worker on a road maintenance crew for the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Baumgardner said his experience with ranching led him to run for public office, as did a desire to change public perception of what a government representative should do.

"We as a people have lost track of what government really is. When people think of government, they think of a senator or congressman or president. One of the things that really got me running was to try and re-educate people to the fact that is not the government. The people is the government."

He said he wants to get people more involved and ensure government works on a local level.

"I'm running to keep government at the lowest level in our counties," he said. "Municipals should take care of municipals, counties should take care of themselves."

Other planks of Baumgardner's platform include private property rights, free enterprise, water on the Western Slope and energy development.

"There are government entities that are telling private property owners they cannot have a gas well drilled on their properties or an oil well drilled on their property, because of possibly a mouse or a grouse," he said.

Baumgardner cites his age and experience as his strongest qualifications.

"I'm 52 years old. I've seen all stages of government. I've seen it evolve," he said. "I've seen government do very well, and I've seen it falter. I feel that with my years, with my age, seeing the different changes in government and following the changes in the government, I could be an asset to help to look forward into the future and form a better Colorado."

Both candidates will be traveling around the large district to campaign in coming weeks, especially during the Fourth of July holiday weekend and parades.

According to the Colorado Secretary of State's office, Baumgardner has raised $3,875 for his campaign, while Korkowski has raised $1,606.

The Republican primary is Aug. 12.

- To reach Zach Fridell, call 871-4208

or email zfridell@steamboatpilot.com

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