Al White, former state tourism director jumps into Senate District 8 race | SteamboatToday.com

Al White, former state tourism director jumps into Senate District 8 race

Al White wants to be your state senator (again)

State Sen. District 8 candidate Al White of Winter Park.

— Former Colorado tourism director and state senator Al White, of Winter Park, whose state senate district included Routt County, wants to be your senator again. But this time, White will identify neither as Republican, as he did while serving in the senate from 2009 to 2011, nor Democrat.

White announced his intention on March 2 to oppose incumbent District 8 state Sen. Randy Baumgardner (R-Hot Sulphur Springs) and Democratic challenger Emily Tracy, of Breckenridge, in the November election. If he prevails in the election, he would become the first unaffiliated candidate elected to the state legislature.

Senate District 8 comprises Garfield, Grand, Jackson, Moffat, Rio Blanco, Routt and Summit counties.

White acknowledged Thursday that fundraising will be difficult without receiving funds directly from one of the two major parties, but said he thinks "the time is right" for his independent run for office. Running as an unaffiliated candidate appeals to him, he said, as it would free him from party leaders telling him how to vote, should he be successful.

"Here's where I think I can win this," White said. "I think I still have a solid block of people who voted for me in the past, regardless of affiliation, and a lot of them will support me for the person I am and things I accomplished in legislature. And I think I can strip some Republican votes that won't be knee jerk (Republican) voters."

The political reality of the district is that all three candidates — likely Tracy and White more so than Baumgardner — will need to appeal to independent voters.

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Catherine Carson, who serves as Democratic chairperson for Senate District 8, as well as for Routt County, said her latest tally of active voters in the seven counties is about 76,800. Of those, about 36.3 percent are Republicans (27,900), 24.2 percent are Democrats and almost 1 percent are Libertarians. The unaffiliated active voters represent the biggest share of voters in the senate district, with 38.3 percent.

Baumgardner defeated Tracy in the 2012 general election by a margin of 51.1 percent to 44.3, with a Libertarian candidate claiming 4.6 percent of the vote.

Tracy said March 2 she is encouraged the share of Republicans is down about five points from the 2012 election and added she believes the geographic size of the district "leaves plenty of room for a three-candidate race.”

"This shift represents an opportunity for a candidate like myself: a moderate, common-sense person who understands rural issues and knows how to bring diverse points of view together," Tracy said. "We need new representation in Senate District 8, not the current Republican or a Republican who has temporarily removed his label."

Asked through a staffer at the state capitol Thursday for a reaction to the announcement of White's candidacy, Baumgardner texted back, "That's interesting."

White said he expects his work as state tourism director will play well in the ski towns of Northwest Colorado.

"There is a solid block of people who better recognize now, than they did before, my accomplishments on behalf of tourism," he said.

White also served in the state House of Representatives from 2000 to 2008, where he was assistant majority leader. He said Thursday that, after serving only part of his original four-year senate term, and being away from the legislature for five years, he would be eligible to seek and serve two four-year terms as allowed under the 1990 Colorado Term Limits Act.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1