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Candidates on the ballot
■ Randy Baumgardner (Republican)
■ Emily Tracy (Democrat)
■ Sacha Weis (Libertarian)
For the first time in 12 years, Northwest Colorado will not be represented at the state Capitol by someone named White. The real question is whether Senate District 8, a typically safe Republican seat, will stay in GOP hands, or if Breckenridge Democrat Emily Tracy can topple two-term state Rep. Randy Baumgardner.
Baumgardner, a rancher from Grand County, has represented House District 57 since 2008. However, his district was redrawn as the new HD 13 to include parts of Boulder and Gilpin counties. Routt County also was drawn into a new district, joining Eagle County to comprise the new HD 26.
Rather than run in HD 13, which is decidedly Democratic, Baumgardner opted to challenge state Sen. Jean White in the Republican primary for the SD 8 seat. White was appointed to the seat when her husband, former state Sen. Al White, was chosen by Gov. Hickenlooper to head the Colorado Tourism Office. Jean White complained that Baumgardner had gone against his promise that he would not run against her, but Baumgardner said he was simply responding to members of his party who urged him to run. He cruised to an easy victory against White in the August primary, setting up the showdown with Tracy.
The boundaries of SD 8 were only slightly adjusted during the contentious redistricting of 2011. The redrawn district now includes Summit County, but the number of registered voters throughout the district still favors Republicans.
Also on the SD 8 ballot is Sacha Weis, a Libertarian candidate from Craig.
Baumgardner and Tracy have divergent views on a number of issues important to Routt County voters.
Baumgardner has expressed strong support for the rights of mineral rights owners to work with oil and gas companies to extract those resources from the ground.
“If you work a deal with an oil company to get the energy out of the ground, you should have the right to do that,” Baumgardner said in September during a forum organized by Citizens Supporting Property Rights. “There needs to be some work done to where everybody’s voice is heard. But the bottom line is, it’s your property. You want to work the deal with the oil company — it’s your minerals. For somebody to say you (can’t), it’s wrong.”
Tracy countered that the issue isn’t so black and white.
“Property, like our homes, is governed by building codes and planning codes,” she said. “Water rights are property rights. If anyone here thinks water law is simple in terms of how those property rights play out — they’re not simple. We always have to keep balance in mind. There’s no one answer. We have to make our property rights fit into the property rights of our society.”
Baumgardner is critical of local governments across the state creating a patchwork of varying rules and regulations for the energy industry. Doing so would be a deterrent to business, he said.
Tracy said it’s important to allow local governments to retain influence over the issues that affect their constituents and land. She expressed her support for a letter to Gov. John Hickenlooper signed by 82 local government officials in Colorado stating their disappointment that the state sued the city of Longmont about its oil and gas drilling regulations.
Baumgardner said he stands for limited government, fiscal responsibility and free-market enterprise. He said regulations need to be eased to help businesses put Coloradans back to work.
Tracy, a former Cañon City City Council member and longtime child protective services worker for the state, said her priorities are sustainable tourism, maintaining a strong agricultural industry and ensuring quality education for children.
Both candidates have emphasized the need to protect Western Slope water from outside entities.
Tracy told the Rotary Club of Steamboat Springs that addressing the state’s budget issues will mean sorting through conflicting constitutional constraints, alluding to the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, or TABOR, and Amendment 23. She has criticized Baumgardner for voting against the state budget bill, which she said was balanced and included spending for Western Slope projects.
Baumgardner said he voted against the bill because it represented a spending increase of 7 percent at a time when taxpayers can’t afford such increases.
The two candidates also differ on some social issues. Baumgardner voted against a controversial civil unions bill earlier this year, saying that marriage is between a man and a woman and that the largely partisan issue took lawmakers’ attention away from more important problems such as the economy and creating jobs. Tracy was supportive of the bill, arguing that “families come in all different shapes and sizes” and that it’s an issue of fairness for same-sex couples. “They have the right to have the same quality of life as the rest of us,” she said.