Tracy eyes unaffiliated voters in Colorado Senate District 8

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Emily Tracy

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Emily Tracy has led a diverse professional life. She became interested in becoming an elected public official while covering local government part-time for a newspaper in Cañon City. That led to two terms on the city council, and that experience in turn led her to a variety of roles for county and state government, including an extended period with the Colorado Department of Human Services working in child welfare, foster care and adoption.

She helped design and implement Colorado’s foster care review system, which creates a voice for children living in foster homes, and has lent support to Colorado Court Appointed Special Advocates, which provides volunteer child advocates who work on behalf of children in the judicial system.

After moving to Summit County, she worked for four years with the judicial system to expand the role of mediation to keep civil cases that have the potential to be resolved out of the courtroom. She also worked for the Summit Chamber of Commerce and co-chaired its legislative affairs council.

Tracy likes to quip that she has lengthy experience working across the aisle because her husband, Del Bush, is a longtime Republican.

— Emily Tracy, Democratic candidate for Colorado Senate District 8, was out in Steamboat Springs neighborhoods Friday afternoon knocking on the doors of unaffiliated voters and even some Republicans who might be leaning toward the middle.

Tracy, a former Cañon City Council Member who lives in Breckenridge, spent the driest spring in memory in the background while Republican rivals Randy Baumgardner and Jean White duked it out in a rare Republican primary battle to see who would make the ticket for the November election.

Now that Baumgardner, the House District 57 representative from Cowdrey, has emerged the winner, Tracy says she’s confident there is a clear choice for voters. Accordingly, she’s honing in on the large block of registered voters in the new Senate District 8 who are not affiliated with any party.

“Elections are always about choices, and there’s a very clear choice in this campaign now,” Tracy said. “Senate District 8 is a very different district than Jean’s senate district or Randy Baumgardner’s assembly district. There are more registered Republicans than Democrats, but more than 35 percent of the voters are unaffiliated.

“That’s kind of a Colorado thing — people like to think of themselves as independent, and they are.”

Senate District 8 includes all or parts of Routt, Garfield, Grand, Jackson, Moffat, Rio Blanco and Summit counties. Baumgardner goes into the fall campaign against Tracy with a built-in advantage — of the district’s 144,590 residents, 38 percent of registered voters are Republican and 26 percent are Democrats. So, it’s no surprise that Tracy is focusing on the unaffiliated electorate. But she said this week that the Colorado Democratic Party thinks it will be a competitive race, and anecdotally, her campaign is fielding inquiries about her positions from registered Republicans who lean to the center.

Tracy said voters would make the choice about whether she or Baumgardner can best represent them in a state Legislature that is dominated by Colorado’s urban Front Range.

“The Western Slope really doesn’t have a strong vote in the state Legislature,” Tracy said. “It’s very much a suburban/urban Legislature. People are concerned about West Slope water, jobs, and they’re concerned about public schools and energy development.”

Tracy said she is acutely aware that each of the seven counties in the district is distinct from the others and has different approaches to energy exploration, the environment and economic development. The thread that ties them together, Tracy said, is the desire for local control.

“Being a Democrat in Moffat, Jackson and Rio Blanco counties is never easy,” Tracy said. “You don’t ever assume that what’s good for Routt County is good for Rio Blanco.”

Interest in energy development cuts both ways, Tracy observed.

She said many voters see energy extraction as the path to job creation. Although she thinks Cañon City’s experience with a uranium mill teaches that those jobs are often transient, she also understands that coal mining will have an important place on the Western Slope for the foreseeable future.

“I don’t believe in standing in the way, but I’ve seen what happens when people permanently lose ability to use their own water well on the south side of Cañon City because of pollution from uranium,” Tracy said.

“People in Moffat County have told me how important the coal-fired power plant is to jobs there. I don’t argue with that. I fall on the side of this community, what’s important to them and helping them retain some power at local level. I cannot imagine that we’ll walk away from coal and that resource that’s in the ground.”

Asked if boards of county commissioners should be able to exercise some influence over how energy development takes place in their county, Tracy said, “Yeah, they absolutely should. (People) have more trust in their local officials than anyone else. They want some say on land use. Land-use planning at the local level has always been the norm in Colorado.”

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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