Todd Hagenbuch, a Democrat running for Colorado House District 57, speaks to the crowd Saturday at the Moffat County Democrats fundraiser at the American Legion. Hagenbuch spoke about the need for affordable health care coverage and his commitment to supporting farmers and ranchers. Hagenbuch is a fourth-generation Routt County rancher.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Todd Hagenbuch, a Democrat running for Colorado House District 57, speaks to the crowd Saturday at the Moffat County Democrats fundraiser at the American Legion. Hagenbuch spoke about the need for affordable health care coverage and his commitment to supporting farmers and ranchers. Hagenbuch is a fourth-generation Routt County rancher.

Democrats meet candidates at fundraiser

— On the national stage, the Democratic Party has used "change" as a lightning rod for gathering support.

Change also was a keyword for local democrats seeking to uproot common practices and stereotypes at the Moffat County Democrats fundraiser Saturday night.

Change for hope, change for opportunity and change for choice, the different candidates said as they took the microphone in front of about 50 supporters.

And while it was officially termed a "fundraiser," the end goal was not to raise money but awareness and support, said Ted Crook, Moffat County Democrats chairman.

The net financial result after food, advertising and other expenses was $50 in the bank, but officials said organizing the community was the primary goal.

"It's not absolutely necessary that we raise money, just that we get people together," Crook said before lightening the mood by playing a few songs on the keyboard. "Things are going pretty well. It was an extremely large turnout for our (county assembly), and I think we're looking forward to the elections at hand."

Which include a local race for an up-for-grabs county commissioner seat.

Challenging the Commission

Lois Wymore, 57, who covered the Moffat County Commission for two years as a beat reporter for the now-closed Moffat County Morning News, is running in her home county District 1 against Republican incumbent Tom Gray.

"The food tonight was lovely," Wymore told the audience. "I'm still pretty hungry, though. I'm hungry for change, and I don't think I'm alone."

Audience members clapped and replied, "Amen."

The country is nearing a recession when residents can expect job growth to decline, Wymore said.

In the meantime, Moffat County residents struggle to make ends meet, she added, and there's a local affordable housing crisis that can expect to get worse.

Wymore did not give specifics on how to address those issues, but they are part of her campaign and her challenge to the Commission.

The life of a public prosecutor

Tammy Stewart, 44, Democratic candidate for the 14th Judicial District Attorney's Office, spoke against what she said were common practices of the current administration.

"I'm running on a platform of reason, experience and justice," she said. "There needs to be a change in the current administration in the DA's office.

"Right now, we have cases being filed that can't be sustained by the evidence. They're ruining people's lives. The District Attorney's Office is a public office, and it needs to treat people with respect."

Stewart added she was the most experienced candidate in the election with 19 years as a prosecutor and a defense attorney.

Bringing family to the house

Todd Hagenbuch, 31, running for the Colorado House District 57 seat being vacated by Rep. Al White, R-Hayden, spoke about recent experiences that opened his eyes to health care needs.

"I did not have a concept of health care costs until (my wife, Sarah, and I) had Trevor," Hagenbuch said.

Trevor, the Hagenbuchs' infant son, was born seven weeks early about a month and half ago, Hagenbuch said.

"His bills are now over $100,000, and it's my understanding if we lived on the Front Range, it'd be close to double that," he said. "Thankfully, my wife has good insurance from her job, but there are many, many people who don't have insurance at all."

Hagenbuch tried to get a feel for how the audience would like to see health care affordability addressed.

He asked the audience how many would be in favor of the state Legislature adopting a single-payer government health insurance system, and about half the attendees raised their hands.

Hagenbuch also said he believes severance taxes must stay within impacted communities, such as Moffat County.

"It would be better to make sure local needs are taken care of with these taxes," he said. "Things like roads, infrastructure and schools here, as opposed to using the money for things across the state."

Taking the valley to Denver

Ken Brenner spent the past 10 years as a Steamboat Springs city councilor and a Routt County planning commissioner.

He hopes to spend his next six years as a Colorado senator for District 8, currently seated by Sen. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs. The district includes all of Moffat County.

Brenner will run against White for the seat.

His years at the local level convinced him of the benefits and necessity of local cooperation and planning, Brenner said, adding he will carry that belief throughout a tenure with the state Legislature.

He said he believes strongly that the state needs to recognize the Western Slope's water rights, and he will work to keep all ownership of the Yampa River under local authorities.

"It's really easy to get over there in Denver and forget where you came from," he said. "Fortunately, I was the oldest son of a third-generation Yampa Valley ranch family, and the needs of this area are a part of me."

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