Ben Nighthorse Campbell on Tuesday accepted an invitation to speak at the Moffat County Republican Party's annual fund-raising dinner.
The Republican U.S. senator will break from a busy legislative session and leave Washington D.C., to be the keynote speaker at the Republicans' annual Lincoln Day Dinner Feb. 27.
Tim Jantz, chairman of the Moffat County Republican Party, said he's been working since November to book the high-profile politician, Colorado's senior U.S. senator.
A Campbell staffer called Jantz Tuesday with the news.
"I got the go-ahead that he'll be here." Jantz said.
Jantz and other Republicans will begin putting the dinner together, selling tickets and sending invitations to various Republican candidates, the Colorado GOP and even the governor.
The dinner is the marquee event for local Republicans, and it's even bigger this year because November's general election features a U.S. presidential race and several congressional campaigns, including Campbell's own seat, Jantz said.
"It's a big year for politics," Jantz said. "The 3rd Congressional District is a really big race for us."
At least seven Republican candidates are vying for the seat in the U.S. House of Representatives once held by Campbell and currently held by Republican Scott McInnis, who is not seeking re-election.
The dinner will be a forum for those candidates, Jantz said.
The evening will begin with a cocktail hour, in which citizens can approach politicians and chat informally or ask specific questions of candidates and their platforms.
When Campbell takes the stage, Jantz expects him to be direct.
"He's a great speaker," Jantz said. "He's not opposed to speaking his mind. That's why people respect him. He's a neat guy to listen to."
A decade go, Campbell likely would have been a less popular figure in Moffat County, where more than 4,000 voters are registered as Republicans and only 1,650 call themselves Democrats. Campbell, the only Native American senator, switched parties in March 1995. Before then, he won seats in the Colorado General Assembly, the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate as a Democrat.
Despite switching sides, Camp-bell is respected for upholding Western Slope ideals and taking a pro-energy stance while protecting natural resources, Jantz said.
"For the most part, I don't hear anything negative about Ben" from local Republicans, Jantz said. "We're glad he's on our side."
Ticket sales for the Lincoln Day Dinner benefit the local Republican party. It gives some money to Republican candidates and buys advertisements that remind people to vote Republican.
Republican fund-raising events in Rio Blanco and Garfield counties are scheduled for the day following the Moffat County dinner. It's a chance for candidates to take a mini-tour of the region and hit several constituencies at once.
Tickets for the Lincoln Day Dinner are being printed and will soon go on sale. The event is limited to 210 guests. Since space is limited and numerous Republican politicians will be lending an ear to local voters, "things could get kinda interesting," Jantz said.
Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org