Longtime local Republican Party activist Jim "Moose" Barrows announced Wednesday his intent to challenge state Rep. Jack Taylor for Colorado Senate District 8.
If both men are able to get 30 percent of the delegate vote at the Republican District 8 nominating assembly in June, they'll move on to a winner-take-all primary Aug. 8. Failing that, either candidate could choose to petition his way onto the primary ballot.
"Over the past 20 years, I've been to every county and state assembly," Barrows said. "I'm tired of going to the state assembly and not having anything to do. I want to get things sparked up."
Barrows' candidacy is not official; he planned to formally file with the Colorado Secretary of State's office today. However, he told fellow Republicans at a Wednesday luncheon that he has formed an exploratory committee for the purpose of seeking the Senate seat that is being vacated by Sen. Dave Wattenberg, R-Walden. Wattenberg is leaving the state Legislature due to term limitations.
Taylor also is facing term limitations on his seat in the House. Taylor and Barrows are acquainted, and Barrows told those attending the Republican luncheon Wednesday that he had tried unsuccessfully to reach Taylor and tell him of is plans.
Barrows said he doesn't have major philosophical differences with Taylor, but he has some different priorities.
Barrows said he wants to become a state senator to address a couple of key issues for the Western Slope. But he's also motivated by a desire to restore a lively exchange of ideas in the political process. Barrows said he's tired of attending county and state assemblies where everything is predetermined.
"When we go to the state assembly and (the candidates have already been decided upon) we never have an alternative to get Republican issues resolved," Barrows said. "We, as a party, need to be accountable."
Barrows also believes there's more room for humor and lightheartedness in the political process.
"This should be fun," Barrows said. "If I accomplish one thing, that's going to be it. These people all take themselves way too seriously."
Barrows is a Steamboat Springs businessman with interests in real estate and aviation. He founded Moose Enterprises in 1973 to carry out consulting and promotions for the ski industry, a field he remains active in.
Barrows is renowned as a former Olympic downhill skier. He said his involvement in local politics goes back to the 1970s when he served on the city of Steamboat's home rule charter committee.
"I've also served on every airport board since 1986," he said.
Aviation and skiing are his passions, and Barrows said he wants to be an effective representative for both industries in the state Legislature.
"The ski industry is the most important thing," Barrows said. "It's time to get somebody in the Legislature who has intimate, hands-on knowledge of the ski industry. I want to represent the ski industry in Colorado, and Senate District 8 includes more skier days than any other senate district in the country."
Barrows was referring to the fact that the district includes the Steamboat, Winter Park, Vail and Beaver Creek ski areas.
State Senate District 8 is composed of seven Western Slope counties: Moffat, Routt, Jackson, Rio Blanco, Garfield, Eagle, Jackson and Grand. Barrows said he already has talked to people in Eagle and Grand counties about his prospective candidacy. He declined to name the people on his exploratory committee.
Barrows also believes the plight of the commercial aviation industry on the Western Slope is not getting its due at the state Capitol in Denver.
"DIA has changed the whole chemistry of traffic on the Western Slope," Barrows said. "We used to have 22,000 commuter seats between Denver and Steamboat a year. Today, all those people are driving to Denver."
Barrows said he would push for reduced landing fees at DIA for in-state airline travel. He also believes the Legislature could help encourage service by new airlines by pushing for United Airlines, the dominant carrier at DIA, to offer smooth baggage transfers to and from other airlines.
Democrat Paul Ohri also has filed his candidacy for Senate District 8 with the Secretary of State. (Tom Ross is a reporter with the Steamboat Springs Pilot/Today.)