Candidates, from right, Steve Ivancie, Randy Baumgardner and Mike Kien are vying for the Colorado State House District 57 seat.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Candidates, from right, Steve Ivancie, Randy Baumgardner and Mike Kien are vying for the Colorado State House District 57 seat.

Forums intensify state House District 57 race

Baumgardner, Ivancie address questions about their political histories

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Election 2010

Visit www.steamboatpilot.com/election20010 for complete coverage of this year's races and issues.

Election calendar

■ Monday

Early voting begins. Voters who didn’t request a mail-in ballot can cast a ballot at the Routt County Courthouse.

■ Tuesday

A candidate forum hosted by the Rotary Club of Steamboat Springs is at 1 p.m. at The Steamboat Grand, featuring Routt County sheriff candidates or their representatives. Other candidates to be announced. Rotarians and their guests are welcome.

■ Oct. 26

Last day to request a mail-in ballot.

■ Oct. 29

Early voting ends.

■ Nov. 2

Election Day. Polling locations will be open across the county, according to precinct.

Learn more

State Rep. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs

Democratic candidate Steve Ivancie

■ Contact Libertarian candidate Mike Kien of Oak Creek at Mikekien2004@yaho... or 970-620-2311.

— A North Routt County rancher who asked to remain anonymous e-mailed a photo last week of shotgun holes blasted through a political sign in his fields.

He said they found shells near the road.

The relatively quiet race for state House District 57, the race with a candidate’s name on a shotgunned sign, saw sparse crowds at the Steamboat Springs Community Center for two forums last week. That was despite the fact that for two nights in a row, Republican state Rep. Randy Baumgardner, Democratic challenger Steve Ivancie and Oak Creek Libertarian Mike Kien — all three wearing belt buckles and jeans, the Western Slope’s political uniform — formed the only complete slate of candidates that was present and answering local questions just days before voting begins.

Early voting starts Monday, at the Routt County Courthouse Annex in downtown Steamboat Springs. Mailed ballots are in boxes, on kitchen countertops or on the way to voters who signed up for them.

One of those three men — Ba­um­­gardner and Ivancie are clear front-runners in terms of finances, name recognition and political experience — will represent Northwest Colorado at the state Capitol for the next two years, during a time when the state continues to face massive budget cuts that could affect multiple aspects of daily life for residents across the state.

House District 57 includes Routt, Moffat, Grand, Jackson and Rio Blanco counties, along with western Garfield County. Representing the district means representing a diverse array of economies, industries and residents, and there are dramatic philosophical differences between the leading candidates for the job. Baumgardner favors cutting taxes, fees and government spending to stimulate the economy from the ground up, for example, while Ivancie said he sees value in enhancing government revenue to generate programs and services to revive the economy from the top down.

Baumgardner served ably on two House committees but, in terms of sponsored bills, has a legislative track record that’s not particularly impressive, even for a first-termer.

Ivancie, meanwhile, has a broad history of community involvement and collaboration but also helped lead a Steamboat Springs City Council that signed off on one of the biggest financial disasters in recent city history.

Both men answered questions about their recent political histories Thursday night.

Freshman year

The only thing Randy Baum­gardner doesn’t like cutting is his mustache.

From beneath a black cowboy hat and the trademark handlebar facial hair, the Hot Sulphur Springs rancher spoke about tax cuts and voting against increased vehicle registration fees with a soft voice that belied his thick, workingman’s stature.

“We have cut all the meat off the bone,” he said this month about the state’s budget, which faces about $1 billion in reductions next year. “As far as where the cuts will come from, I’d say they’ll come across the board. … We will balance the budget; I just don’t know what agency will be affected the greatest.”

When asked Thursday night what legislation he had sponsored or co-sponsored that’s had an impact on Routt County, Baumgardner spoke about a bill that improved the placement of yield signs on transit buses. He also spoke about his “no” vote on FASTER, the 2009 legislation that implemented higher vehicle fees to help fund road and bridge improvements statewide.

Asked what legislation he’d propose next year that would aff­­ect Routt County, Baumgardner spoke about his duty to the district as a whole.

“I’d have to look at what’s good for all the counties, and for the whole state,” he said, before adding: “I’d like to run another piece of legislation on clean coal technology.”

Baumgardner was a primary sponsor for a 2009 bill that would have streamlined the approval process and requirements for clean coal projects. The bill died in the House Transportation & Energy Committee, on which Baumgardner sits.

The Republican Baumgard­ner was a freshman legislator serving in the minority party under a Democratic governor.

His legislative record for the past two years includes a 2010 bill that, according to his website, “requires landowners to record information about private burials on their land with the county clerk.” Baumgardner noted that the bill’s rural nature drew some laughs at the Capitol, “but it was a piece of legislation that we needed because it was costing counties and police departments and construction companies a ton of money.”

During the past two years, he’s also been a primary sponsor of successful bills that reduce the time required to provide written documentation of oil and gas valuations; require historical military vehicles to bear a license plate; and started a license plate program for Colorado State Parks; along with resolutions that honored Colorado’s Olympians and, in 2009, late North Routt County rancher and water pioneer John Fetcher.

“I was proud of all the legislation that I sponsored or co-sponsored because I felt they were very important for the people of Colorado,” he said.

Iron weight

Steve Ivancie served on Ste­am­boat Springs City Council for eight years, part of that falling during the boom years as development flourished in Steamboat from about 2005 through 2007.

Ivancie was part of councils that grappled with affordable housing regulations and ultimately implemented policies including inclusionary zoning and linkage.

Those policies, he said Thur­sday night, were one of many reasons the City Council in 2007 voted unanimously to buy the Iron Horse Inn on U.S. Highway 40 just east of downtown. Ivancie told Thursday’s audience that the city felt that as it imposed housing requirements on developers, it should take action itself to provide affordable housing.

“We thought it was important that we had to lead by example,” Ivancie said. “No one foresaw that the economy would fall the way it did. At the time, we felt it was a good long-term investment.”

Although accomplishments of Ivancie’s service include the expansion of Bud Werner Memorial Library, the city’s watershed protection ordinance and the Community Center where Thursday’s forum was held, the Iron Horse investment of nearly $5.3 million hangs like an iron albatross around the neck of that City Council.

None of the Iron Horse principal had been paid off as of December, and annual interest costs to the city exceed $300,000.

“Steamboat’s unique and has very unique problems. We had a problem attracting and retaining city employees,” Ivancie said this month. “The Iron Horse was a unanimous decision of the council at that time.”

Ivancie also noted that alth­ough the economic recession drastically has reduced the inn’s revenues, particularly from nightly rentals, its 26 long-term rental units remain filled with members of the local work force — the intent of the purchase.

Beyond his City Council ter­ms, Ivancie has been involved with groups including First Impres­sions of Routt County and the Yampa Valley Autism Program. While on City Council, he represented Steamboat to regional or statewide groups including the Colorado Municipal League and Department of Local Affairs, often working with Democrats and Republicans alike.

That bipartisan spirit includes appreciation for the work of state Sen. Al White, a member of the Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee and a Hayden Rep­ublican who held the House seat before Baumgardner.

“I think Al White did an outstanding job of representing us for those eight years,” Ivancie said. “Those are big shoes to fill.”

In campaigning to fill those shoes, Ivancie said, he’s gotten a full dose of the anger and frustration among voters that’s spurred movements such as the tea party and driven national Democratic and Republican parties, plus shadowy special-interest groups, to pour record-breaking amounts of dollars into political races across the country.

“It’s different this time — it’s certainly different this time,” Ivancie said about the political atmosphere. “The attitude is very toxic.”

Toxic enough, in Routt County, to fire a shotgun at a campaign sign.

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