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There is a lot at stake in the election this year, and the need for our elected officials to work together across the Continental Divide as well as across party lines is more important than ever. My years on the city council of Cañon City and on local land-use planning commissions, plus my conflict resolution experience as well as being married to a conservative Republican businessman, have prepared me well for this challenge.
For months, I have been walking neighborhoods in the seven-county Senate District 8, which includes Routt County and all of Northwest Colorado. I’ve spoken with hundreds of voters at their doors, and I have talked to many more on the phone and at events. There is no better experience than talking directly to voters. I’ve heard so much and I’ve learned so much.
People in the rural and resort communities of Northwest Colorado love where they live, but they’re concerned about the economy. I am saddened to talk with the many who are underemployed or who own small businesses that are struggling. Some are underwater in their mortgages and have friends who are in the same boat. I’ve talked with recent college graduates who either can’t find a job that utilizes their hard-won degrees or are facing huge student loan debts and don’t have sufficient income to make loan payments. Many voters express concern about the environment and the quality and quantity of Western Slope water. They know preserving these are at the core of the quality of life we enjoy in rural Colorado.
There is widespread support for quality public education in rural Colorado and substantial concerns about insufficient funding for P-12 and higher education. Most voters in the district agree that Western Slope issues and concerns do not receive adequate attention in the Colorado Legislature. They want an end to the partisan bickering, and they are angry that majority rule was blocked at the end of the regular legislative session in May — with the assistance of my opponent — resulting in the need for a costly special session. Voters want problems solved, and they want their elected leaders to work across the partisan divide to get things done.
Because most people live in Front Range cities, the Colorado Legislature is mostly urban and suburban, and it’s dominated by Front Range interests. Legislators are mostly good folks, of course, but those from the Front Range may have little understanding of the unique interests and needs of rural Northwest Colorado. It is critical that we elect strong, effective legislators in our part of the state.
It is not good enough for a Western Slope legislator to say, “I have one voice at the Capitol ... you have one vote down there,” as my opponent said at a recent candidate debate. The voices of our Northwest Colorado legislators must be far stronger than the one vote they have. As a legislator, you must be effective in influencing policy, and you must work across party lines with other rural legislators to solve our unique problems.
And no matter what political party you are allied with, your loyalty should be with your constituents. My opponent was the only Western Slope member of the state House who voted against extending funding for forest restoration this year. Only six representatives voted against HB12-1032, five of them from the Front Range and Eastern Plains, plus my opponent. Forest health and fire mitigation in the forests has been a top priority in this year of drought. We still are fighting fires and have much more work to do to reduce the danger for people who live in and near our forests.
Throughout the years, the most effective Western Slope legislators have been the ones who worked with legislators of all political persuasions to get things done. The least effective legislators have been the ones who merely followed the direction of their party leaders in Denver. My experience in conflict resolution and working across the partisan divide will serve the voters of this district well. We need elected officials who can sit down with others with diverse views, help determine our common interests and work toward solutions that address as many of those interests as possible. I will bring an independent, common-sense voice to the Senate. I look forward to your support in November.
Emily Tracy lives in Breckenridge and is the Democratic candidate for Senate District 8, which includes Routt County. Learn more at www.emilytracy.com.