Steamboat Springs Jean White and Randy Baumgardner have their sights set on the Senate District 8 seat.
White, the Hayden Republican who was appointed to the state Senate seat a year ago to fill the vacancy left by her husband’s resignation, announced early Wednesday that she will seek election to a full term in November 2012. Just a few hours later, Baumgardner, a Hot Sulphur Springs Republican who is the state representative for House District 57, publicly announced his intention to run for the same Senate seat.
“I’m disappointed that he chose to run against me, especially after he gave me his word that he wouldn’t,” White said, recalling a conversation she said she had with Baumgardner a couple of weeks ago. “He looked me in the eye and told me he wasn’t going to run a primary against me.”
Baumgardner said he was encouraged to run by others.
“It’s not a matter of throwing a hat in the ring against a fellow Republican,” he said. “Several people have contacted me in the district and were in support of me running in that district.”
S.D. 8 recently was revised as part of the decennial redistricting process and now includes all or parts of Routt, Garfield, Grand, Jackson, Moffat, Rio Blanco and Summit counties. Of its 144,590 residents, 38 percent of registered voters in S.D. 8 are Republican, 26 percent are Democrats, and 35 percent are unaffiliated.
White was appointed to fill her husband’s state Senate seat in January 2011, when Al White was named director of the Colorado Tourism Office. She was assigned to the Senate’s Business, Labor and Technology and Health and Human Services committees.
Baumgardner twice has been elected to the H.D. 57 seat and serves on the Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources, and State, Veterans and Military Affairs committees.
However, his future as a state representative was put into question this month when the Colorado Supreme Court approved redistricting maps that moved Grand and Jackson counties into H.D. 13. Routt County also was removed from H.D. 57 and now will partner with Eagle County as the new H.D. 26. Beginning in November 2012, H.D. 57 will comprise Moffat, Rio Blanco and Garfield counties.
A previous redistricting proposal kept Jackson County in H.D. 57 but removed Grand County. At the time, Baumgardner said he had leased a ranch in Jackson County, which would have enabled him to seek re-election for H.D. 57. On Wednesday, Baumgardner said he will retain his full-time residence in Jackson County.
Political boundaries also have played a role in Jean and Al White’s legislative careers. The Whites purchased a townhome in Hayden in September 2006. At the time, Al White was living in Winter Park and was the state representative for H.D. 57. He was term-limited in his House seat, and Winter Park wasn’t part of Senate District 8. The move to Hayden allowed him to run for the state Senate seat in a district that was very similar geographically to H.D. 57. Baumgardner cited geographic similarities as his reason for pursuing the S.D. 8 seat instead of the seat for House District 13, which will include parts of Boulder and Gilpin counties.
“With the redistricting, there weren’t a lot of options to represent the people where I live,” Baumgardner said. “It would have been difficult to represent the people in Boulder the same way you represent the people in Jackson County. I’m not saying I couldn’t have, but I believe I best fit the people of Senate District 8.”
White said she plans to base her campaign on smaller government, fewer regulations and job creation. A news release from her campaign also states that “in addition to supporting all aspects of tourism, White will focus on the economic benefits of oil, gas and coal production; the importance of a quality education for our children; and the need for access to affordable broadband in all of Northwest Colorado.”
Baumgardner touts his ranching and farming experience and said he also understands important issues such as water and mineral extraction. Like White, he noted the significance of tourism to local economies. He said his three years of legislative experience compared with White’s one year better positions him to represent Northwest Colorado.
White rejected that notion.
“I technically have 12 years of experience in the Legislature having worked with my husband during his time here,” she said. “That’s truly what allowed me to be so successful in my first term — my contacts in the district and at the Capitol.”
“Being here assisting and being here serving are two different things,” Baumgardner responded. “I feel I have more experience serving.”
S.D. 8 traditionally has been strongly Republican. But its revised boundaries are giving hope to Democrats in 2012.
Voters in the new S.D. 8 voted for U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat, over Republican foe Bob Schaffer in the 2008 election. In the 2010 U.S. Senate election, Republican Ken Buck edged Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet by just more than 1 percent in S.D. 8.
“I think 2012 is a good opportunity for getting a good, strong voice from Routt County in Denver,” said Catherine Carson, chairwoman of the Routt County Democratic Party. “This will be a competitive district, and we will have a strong candidate.”
Meanwhile, the local Republican party won’t take an official stance on Baumgardner or White until after the June 26 primary election. And that’s not to say other GOP candidates won’t also join the fray in the coming months.
“We let the candidates make their cases to the voters and let the voters decide,” said Chuck McConnell, chairman of the Routt County Republican Central Committee. “This election cycle is certainly going to be interesting.”