Grand County Republican vying to succeed White

Dennis WebbPost Independent StaffGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – A Grand County Republican has filed state paperwork to become a candidate to succeed fellow party member Al White in the Colorado House of Representatives’ 57th District.”I guess I’m official,” said Randy Baumgardner, a Hot Sulphur Springs Colorado Department of Transportation employee and rancher.Ed Sands, chairman of the Garfield County Democratic Party, said the party has been talking to prospective candidates but none of them wants to go public at this point. Andy Gold, a Grand County Democrat who ran unsuccessfully against White in 2006, is leaning against another run.”I haven’t totally ruled it out. If enough people give me a good reason to try again I would consider it. As of this time that hasn’t happened, surely not enough to want to go at it again,” he said.”We didn’t have a whole heck of a lot of support from the party last time,” he said.The Democratic Party didn’t focus on the race because the district is heavily Republican, and Gold was challenging someone who had served in the legislature for six years.White said Republicans have a 2-1 edge in registration in the district. District 57 includes western Garfield County, along with Rio Blanco, Moffat, Routt, Jackson and Grand counties. White will be forced out of the seat by term limits at the end of next year. He is running for the state Senate seat now held by fellow Republican Jack Taylor of Steamboat Springs. Taylor also must leave his office because of term limits at the end of 2008.Garfield County resident Phil Vaughan has been considering running for White’s seat. Vaughan, who owns a construction company and chairs the county Planning and Zoning Commission, also had mulled running for county commissioner next year. He dropped the idea after fellow Republican Mike Samson stepped forward to seek the western Garfield County seat now held by Republican Larry McCown. McCown has decided against running again.Vaughan is the Republican Party chairman for the 57th District, making him responsible for helping find candidates for White’s seat.”If there are others who are willing to run and we’re willing to step behind them, I’m happy to do that,” he said. “My name doesn’t have to be on the ballot.”Baumgardner, 51, is a transportation maintenance worker. He also raises Black Angus cattle on 31,000 leased acres between Hot Sulphur Springs and Granby.He hasn’t held elected office, but was inspired to run because he likes White’s stances on issues such as water, and striking a balance between recreation and agriculture.”I thought that, well, maybe that’s something I can carry on since he’s not going to be here,” he said.Gold said the fact that it will be a race for an open seat next year gives Democrats more of a shot of winning in the race. But he said if the party still isn’t willing to help out a candidate, he might stand a better chance running as an independent.Sands said running a competitive race in the district still is an uphill battle for Democrats, even with an open seat. He said party leaders in Denver evaluate their candidates’ chances in various races when deciding where to prioritize and invest their financial resources.”We always lobby for those funds, but none of those decisions are made here,” he said.Almost everyone interviewed for this story said it’s difficult to find people who can afford to run for the job, which pays $30,000 a year. White said he has talked to several interested people, but they decided against running because they need more money to raise their families.Vaughan said he has had to look at how much time legislative service would take away from his family, business and volunteer commitments.”You bet those are considerations. I have seen an awful lot of people really have to grapple with that a bunch,” he said.Contact Dennis Webb: 384-9119dwebb@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO

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