Local officials discuss Gov. Ritter withdrawal

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Bill Ritter Jr.

— Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter’s announcement Wednesday morning that he would not seek re-election elicited no tears from two Moffat County commissioners, both Republicans.

Commission­er Tom Mathers feigned confusion when asked about his feelings regarding Ritter’s decision.

“You mean other than happiness?” Math­­ers said. “He shut our industry down here. He’s one reason we’re in the shape we’re in, in Moffat Coun­ty.”

Even comments from state Democratic Party officials that Ritter’s withdrawal would enable Democrats to put a stronger candidate in the gubernatorial race did nothing to dampen Mathers’ enthusiasm.

“I know even another Democrat might not be as bad as he was for our area,” he said.

Mathers’ concerns centered on Ritter’s policies on energy development and tax revenue generated by mining and drilling for fossil fuels.

Ritter flew over Vermillion Basin in 2007 without informing county officials of his plans, and later stated publicly he would not want energy development to ruin its landscape.

His administration also created new drilling regulations to increase wildlife and public health protections, as well as used millions in severance tax revenue slated for local government grants to balance the state budget.

Moffat County Commissioner Tom Gray said these positions have hurt the local economy.

“I don’t think Ritter’s been good for Moffat County,” he said.

Moffat County’s economy exists, Mathers said, because of the area’s relationship with the energy industry.

“The whole town of Craig survives on natural resources,” Mathers said. “Everything is natural resources. … Whether it comes out of the ground, from the air or water, natural resources makes wealth.”

Commissioner Audrey Danner said she had no comment about Ritter’s decision.

Brian Baxter, a member of the Moffat County Democrats, said he is sorry to see the governor decide he would not serve another four years, though he added it is too early to have an opinion on what Ritter’s decision means for the state’s future.

“I am disappointed,” Baxter said. “He’s not going to continue the work he started, but who knows what the right thing to do was. I’ll have to sort of listen and see what happens.”

Baxter said he was impressed with Ritter’s handling of the recession and the more than $1 billion in spending cuts officials have made since 2008.

“We have to evaluate and think about what we’re doing instead of just blindly cutting,” he said. “Ritter was good at that.”

He said he did not have a comment regarding the governor’s positions on energy development.

Baxter, who was on Ritter’s re-election campaign mailing list, said he was surprised by the announcement.

“I hadn’t expected it at all because all the things I’ve been getting from his re-election campaign seemed to suggest he was very focused on the election,” he said.

State Sen. Al White, R-Hayden, said Ritter’s announcement likely will have little affect on the next legislative session.

“An election year is always an interesting time for the Legislature,” he said. “Both sides try to get the other to make stupid votes so they can use them against the other side. … There’s just a lot of weirdness that takes place. I don’t think that will change.”

Democrats still control both houses and the governor’s office through January, White said. Regardless of who the next governor is, conservatives probably will find it as difficult to push their agenda this session as they did during the past few years, he said.

White added, however, that the governor’s choice not to accept his party’s nomination might have some consequences for the Democrats’ unity, which could be fortuitous for Republicans seeking to win more control in state government.

Rumors began circulating Tuesday night as to who might seek the Democratic nomination, including such names as Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, a former U.S. senator for Colorado and former state attorney general.

Salazar’s office said the secretary would not comment on his possible candidacy, though the White House told reporters it would not object.

Hickenlooper hosted a press conference Wednesday afternoon and said he would only consider running for governor if Salazar declined.

Outside of party lines, Mathers said he has some idea of what kind of person he would want in the governor’s office.

“I guess an ideal governor would have to be somebody who pays as much attention to the small towns as the major city he’s in,” Mathers said. “It’s like Moffat County and Dinosaur.

“Dinosaur gets left out in the cold a lot, because we’re in Craig, and we don’t see what goes on there all the time. … So far, I haven’t seen anybody, but there’s got to be somebody in the world like that. If there was, though, they’d probably have enough sense not to run.”

Comments

KC 4 years, 9 months ago

Come on Tom, you know as well as anyone that the comment that "Ritter shut the industry down" is pure B.S. While I'm open to debate about the pros and cons of the new regulations put on the industry in western Colorado, it's important to note that the industry's withdrawal from western Colorado started months, if not a half year before any regs were passed. I encourage the reporter on this story to go to the Oil and Gas Conservation Web site and check it out. A little thing called supply and demand spurred companies to start laying down rigs -- not the governor of Colorado. What Tom is doing is a tool that seems to be used all too often in modern-day politics -- if you say something enough, whether it's true or not, it eventually becomes true. Republicans have been doing it for over a year in western Colorado. Ritter didn't drive drilling out of western Colorado. When prices start to go up again, I guarantee the rigs that were laid down will be hoisted back up.

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Vermillion 4 years, 9 months ago

I couldn't agree more with KC. The price of natural gas caused the curtaining of exploration in Moffat County. By 2020 the world's demand for energy will double. We may be better of delaying the production of gas for the future. The price will be higher with a greater benefit to Moffat County's tax revenues. The stimulus funds for carbon sequestration may be the biggest economic development for Moffat County. It could save the coal industry. All we hear from the commissioners is complaints and whining. It is time for a change. Can't the Republicans come up with a better candidate than Tom Mathers? He has been an embarassment to the county.

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moconative 4 years, 9 months ago

Tom Mathers is CORRECT!!!! My husband works in the oil & gas industry and traveled most of 2006 & 2007 for work, but in 2008 opportunities came available close to home. All the meetings he went to for work said there would be steady work here in Moffat & Rio Blanco for the next 10 to 20 years. Then came 2009 and the Governor's regulations. My husband has worked 2 months in Colorado. TWO months!!!! He is having to travel again & the companies have told the employees they are pulling out BECAUSE of the regulations. So, now, my husband works away from home. I am personally effected by the decisions of this Governor every day, so don't tell me it has had no effect on us!!!

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moconative 4 years, 9 months ago

Please read the comment from William D after the Denver Post article. He makes a really good point.

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Neal Harkner 4 years, 9 months ago

moconative - While Governor Ritter's policies may have made it more difficult to obtain drilling permits, he absolutely did NOT cause production in Western Colorado to dry up.

Unless you slept through all of 2008, you might remember that we had a stock market crash, investment bank failures, a housing bubble burst, and financial bailouts. In a period of about 18 months TRILLIONS of dollars of capital was wiped out.

As a result, the US entered the longest recession since The Great Depression. Unemployment is at its highest level since 1983 and is expected to continue rising until late this year or early next year. People are out of work, and companies have cut back on production. Recessions cause energy demands to drop. That's why drilling stopped, regardless of what Tom wants you to think.

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taxslave 4 years, 9 months ago

Congressmen and senators are bailing also.....rats off the sinking ship.

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Vermillion 4 years, 9 months ago

I have worked with the oil and gas industry for over 30 years. I have found that their statements have no credibility. Their only interest is to increase profits by decreasing regulations, restrictions, payments to surface owners and mineral owners. While some in the industry have had a change in attitude concerning decreasing pollution, their past history is not good. Statements from the oil and gas industry can not be believed.

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John Kinkaid 4 years, 9 months ago

He ran for governor as a "moderate" and then governed from the "left".

He and is policies were failures. Like wasting tax dollars on blowing power plant flue gas into the ground for storage. $4 million for that project.

He's another Jared Polis, Michael Bennet, Mark Udall "greenie". How are those green policies working out for everybody? Bush and Obama have both made things worse. And of course let us not forget our friends Barney Frank and Chris Dodd.

Don't make home loans for people who are high risk. No business is too big to fail.

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Anitadunnce 4 years, 9 months ago

Let me recount this tale to see whether it passes the smell-test: Bill Ritter has been in public office for 30 years, but he just concluded during Christmas Break that public life has "taken a toll on [his] family[ ]". Is this man a dim-wit, or what?

I would suggest that the "toll" has little to do with public life. Instead, I suggest that we should look at the faces that were notoriously absent from the Ritter get-together as shown on television yesterday ..... such as, oh, say, Stephanie Villafuerte.

Is it possible that this Roman Catholic, upstanding, allegedly "highly principled" governor/former D.A. just bopped Stephanie as long as it suited him..... and now that he has used her all up, and his parting "thank you" gift to Stephanie (i.e. the Colorado U.S. Attorney present that he tried to hand over to her) has failed, he is just setting Stephanie out on the curb with the trash. That does NOT make the governor "highly principled". That makes Bill Ritter a reprehensible cad.

Jeannie would do well to run, not walk, into the office of the closest divorce attorney. Jeannie, if you need some help and support with this, phone the former first lady of South Carolina. Now, she is a classy lady who refuses to be mistreated by a cad. Jeannie, you are a class act, too, and you can do much better than Bill Ritter for a mate!

Bill Ritter is lacking in the ethics department, the honesty department, the integrity department..... and do not let this governor tell the people of Colorado that he cares about family values. He does not care much about Cory Voorhis's family; he cares nothing for Seth and Stephanie's family; he cares not a whit for the hundreds/even tens of thousands of families impacted by the violent illegal aliens to whom he gave free passes as Denver District Attorney so that they could assault, rape, molest, sell drugs to, and steal the identities of yet more Americans. Not only has this governor damaged Moffat County almost irreparably, but the damage that he has done to the State as a whole will be in evidence for many years to come. Show Bill Ritter the door, Coloradans.

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