GOP fÃte

Lincoln Day Dinner draws top officials

The Republican candidates for offices ranging from the U.S. House of Representatives to the Moffat County Commissioner Board stood in a circle receiving instructions from the chair of the Moffat County Republican Central Committee.

Tim Jantz told the candidates they each had 10 minutes to speak. That was 10 minutes to convince 100 Republicans that they were the right person to fill the office they were running for.

The annual Moffat County Republicans Lincoln Day Dinner was held at the Holiday Inn on Friday evening. It was a chance for Craig residents to meet their current and potential political representatives in person, shake their hands, and ask them their views.

U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., was to be the guest speaker at the dinner, but he was absent due to a recent hospitalization for chest pains that turned out to be an acid reflux attack. The attention then shifted to state Sen. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs, and the candidates for the 3rd Congressional District, four of whom attended the dinner.

Taylor formally announced his intentions to run for a second term in the state Senate while speaking in Campbell's place. Citing his experience on agriculture, tourism and mineral extraction issues, Taylor said he looked forward to the continued opportunity to serve.

During a year that holds elections on every level of government, Taylor said it is extremely important that a Republican fill every office from the United States president to county commissioner.

"The challenge is to get the party moving at the precinct and community level," Taylor said.

Taylor's comments reflected the significance of the night for the 100 Republicans that attended the event. From Campbell, who is running for re-election in the United States Senate, to the field of county commissioners, the night was all about getting Republicans elected to office.

But that is a goal that Moffat County has already achieved. Every official that Moffat County has a say in electing is a Republican except for Moffat County Commissioner Darryl Steele, who is a registered independent.

The Lincoln Day Dinner is the only fund-raising event the Moffat County Republican Central Committee holds during the year, said Tim Jantz, committee president. Proceeds will be donated as campaign contributions to party nominees following the primary elections.

Delina DiSanto, Greg Walcher, state Rep. Gregg Rippy, R-Aspen, and state Rep. Matt Smith, R-Grand Junction, each spoke on why they should be the candidate for the 3rd Congressional District. All the candidates spoke on water, the economy, and health care as major issues in the election.

"A woman's place is in the house -- -the House of Representatives," DiSanto said. She has worked on the campaign staffs of Campbell and Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo. She said while touring the 3rd Congressional District, she hasn't been convinced that the area has recovered economically as well as the rest of the country.

Walcher, the former Colorado Natural Resources Department director, is a conservative Republican who supports President's Bush's tax cuts as well as the war on terror, much like Rippy and Smith do.

"I support the action in Iraq. We must meet the fight head-on or we'll be fighting the terrorists in our streets," Smith said.

Smith is the brother-in-law of Rep. Scott McInnis, the congressman he is seeking to replace. Smith wouldn't say whether he thought that relationship would help or hinder his candidacy. He said he would make health insurance a focus of his campaign, and if elected would work to make insurance premiums tax-deductible.

Rippy, who represented Craig in the state house until redistricting moved him to Aspen, echoed Taylor's sentiments on electing Republicans to a higher degree.

"There are those who want to take away what the Republican party stands for, that want to take away individual rights. That threat is every bit as dangerous as the terrorists," Rippy said.

Each of the candidates had been allotted 10 minutes to speak to the audience, and Rippy spent several minutes lamenting the death of a basin or origin water protection bill in the state legislature Friday afternoon. He apologized for taking up so much time on a state issue, but said it was one of the most important issues for the Western Slope.

Rep. Al White, R-Winter Park, also announced his intentions to run for a second term in the state legislature. He cited his work on the concealed weapons permits, the do-not-call list, and water bills as good work he has done for his constituents. No one is yet opposing White in the race.

Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or by e-mail at rgebhart@craigdailypress.com.

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