Campaign opponents employ different strategies

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Buffy Wicks came to Colorado fresh off the Howard Dean campaign.

She has plans to stay through November, and although she's disappointed she'll miss the ski season, she said she'll be all right if she leaves after securing a rancher from Clark a state Senate seat.

Wicks is candidate Jay Fetcher's campaign manager. Together with Jennifer Tuttle, who is campaigning for Fetcher in the Glenwood Springs area, she is mounting a campaign to unseat Sen. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs, who has represented Northwest Colorado in Denver for the past 12 years.

After losing a bid for the state House of Representatives by 300 votes, Fetcher is taking no chances in this race.

"We're taking this campaign very seriously. I had a campaign manager for the House, but we were a little more relaxed then," Fetcher said.

Not so now.

Fetcher's mornings are consumed by chores at the ranch, but when those are done he spends at least two hours on the phone, introducing himself to the people he hopes will be his future constituents.

He has a list of previous supporters he calls to ask for campaign donations, and he's scheduled a fund-raiser in Denver where he hopes to cash in with his supporters in the Colorado Cattlemen's Agriculture Land Trust, an organization he helped establish.

He plans to canvass neighborhoods and knock on doors where it is possible to do so, but Senate District 8 includes Moffat, Routt, Rio Blanco, Jackson, Eagle and Garfield counties, a landmass too large for traditional door-to-door campaigning.

That's why Wicks introduced the idea of house meetings.

Based on a model she believes started with the labor movement, Fetcher supporters invite 10 to 20 people to their home, where the candidate talks some about himself, but mostly listens to their concerns.

"My philosophy is to get people actively involved in the political process rather than just use them for their vote," Wicks said.

Closer to election day, Fetcher will begin running a television ad campaign, Wicks said.

While this is the second General Assembly campaign for Fetcher, it will be Taylor's sixth.

During visits to the Moffat County Republican Assembly and the Moffat County Republican Women luncheon, Taylor said he has never taken an election lightly, nor will he take this one lightly.

He is always careful not to name his opponent, unless he is directly asked to do so.

While Taylor's campaign isn't as strategic as Fetcher's, the incumbent Senator still spends a large portion of his time traveling the district.

Thursday he went on a water tour in Glenwood Springs, and he was recently in Eagle and Garfield counties on business.

"The fact I keep winning is an indication I'm doing something right," Taylor said.

In addition to campaigning, he spends large parts of his day addressing his constituents' problems. But that in itself is a form of campaigning, Taylor said.

During the past week he helped one constituent with license plate difficulties and another who claimed arsenic was in his water.

Both candidates speak of higher education as a major campaign issue this year. Mandatory services account for 90 percent of Colorado's budget.

Expecting to have to make major budget cuts next year, state legislators are looking at the non-mandated 10 percent, which includes higher education, Taylor said.

"We'll have to cut higher ed if we don't come up with some sort of solution," Taylor said.

Fetcher said he worried the state would have to go to a private college system because of the tight budget.

Voters have continually brought up health care during his conversations with them, Fetcher said.

Though the issue doesn't fall under the state's control, he said it's something he is studying closer and has a personal interest in.

Fetcher's wife needs to work so that he can have health insurance.

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

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