GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - Voters in seven northwestern counties gave Republican Randy Baumgardner a promotion from the state House to the Senate in a race against Breckenridge Democrat Emily Tracy.
"I want to thank the voters for their support," Baumgardner said late Tuesday evening, after getting a phone call from Tracy. "I believe they looked at the issues, how I had voted, and thought I was the best fit for the district."
Baumgardner collected 30,714 votes, 51 percent, as of press time, compared to 26,715, or 45 percent, for Tracy. A third candidate, Libertarian Sacha Weis of Craig, got 2,403 votes, or 4 percent of the total.
Senate District 8 takes in Garfield, Rio Blanco, Moffat, Routt, Jackson, Grand and Summit counties. Baumgardner defeated the incumbent, Jean White of Hayden, in the June 26 Republican primary.
Baumgardner served as a state representative for the past four years in the old House District 57, representing western Garfield County. Legislative redistricting drew him out of that district, prompting him to challenge White.
In Tuesday's general election, Baumgardner won in five of the seven counties, losing to Tracy only in her home county, Summit, and in Routt County. He topped Tracy 10,710-9,203 in Garfield County, according to results available as of press time.
A rancher with holdings in Grand and Jackson counties, Baumgardner, 56, positioned himself as a conservative with a focus on natural resources and water.
As he shifts from a smaller House district to the larger Senate District 8, transportation issues will take on more importance with his expanded constituency. Traffic and highway expansion issues are more in focus in eastern Garfield County, and in Summit County, and Baumgardner said he will have to pay more attention to transportation dollars.
He said he will also work to make sure northwest Colorado gets its fair share of funding for water projects, and he is stepping into the fray in a debate over forest health and funding for forest thinning projects.
"I agree we need forest health, but I won't take money out of water infrastructure to do that," he said.
Baumgardner also plans to continue working on efforts to capture methane from coal mines "to make our environment healthier."
"I'll just listen to what people have to say, and do the best job I can. I will give them 100 percent. We're not always going to agree, but I'll do what's best for the senate district," he said.
Baumgardner's win was closer this time than his 2010 race, when he cleaned up with 70 percent of the vote. He said he was "scared to death" during this campaign against Tracy.
"I always run like I'm in last place, always looking over my shoulder. I never really felt confident that the win was going to be easy," he said.