Houpt rules out state Senate run, White all but certain to enter race
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
More than a year before it is up for election, some hopefuls are strongly considering a run for the state Senate seat in the district that includes Garfield County.
After mulling it over, however, one Garfield County resident has withdrawn her name from the possible pool of candidates. Democratic county Commissioner Tresi Houpt said she was urged to run but has decided the timing isn’t right.
“I’m not done with the work that I think needs to be done in the county,” Houpt said.
Meanwhile, state Rep. Al White this week reiterated the interest he has long expressed in running for the position now occupied by fellow Republican Jack Taylor of Steamboat Springs. Taylor can’t run again for the District 8 seat because of term limits.
Also, Steamboat Springs City Council member Ken Brenner, a Democrat, said Wednesday he is giving serious consideration to entering the race. White said he also has heard that Eagle County Commissioner Arn Menconi is interested in the race.
Menconi, a Democrat, was on vacation on Wednesday and unavailable for comment. He is currently the subject of a recall effort in Eagle County.
Houpt said the Senate seat is an important one and she was honored when she was encouraged to run. But she recently was appointed to the restructured Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which regulates oil and gas drilling. As someone who has taken a strong interest in drilling-related issues in the county, she thinks she’s best off serving on the COGCC rather than in the state legislature.
She said her youngest son is in high school, and she wants to be able to spend more time with him than would be possible if she were a state lawmaker.
Houpt said the prospect of facing White didn’t keep her from running, although he could be hard to beat.
“I think there’s some pretty clear distinctions between us. But I think he’s tried to be pretty moderate, so I think it would have been difficult,” she said.
Said White, “I have high respect for Tresi. I still think I would have prevailed against her but that’s hard to say; only time would have made that determination.”
White would bring eight years of experience as a state lawmaker to a fall 2008 Senate race. He is facing term limits himself next year as state representative in a district that includes western Garfield County.
White said Wednesday he has pretty much decided to run, but is waiting a few more weeks to make a formal announcement.
He has taken care of one obstacle to running. White’s principal residence has been in Winter Park, which had been part of Taylor’s Senate district but was removed during redistricting in 2002. Last year, White bought a townhouse in Hayden both to enable him to more easily travel to the western reaches of his House District 57 and to let him claim residency in Senate District 8 so he could run for Taylor’s seat.
District 8 covers much of northwest Colorado, including Garfield, Eagle, Rio Blanco, Moffat, Routt and Jackson counties. White said his House district has overlapped almost all of that Senate district at one time or another over the years.
“I feel good about what I have accomplished on behalf of the 57th. Those accomplishments are accomplishments that are important in the 8th,” he said.
He cited obtaining state tourism funding, cost-of-living compensation for teachers, a new local tax mechanism for open space acquisition, and protection of property rights and Western Slope water rights as some of those accomplishments.
Brenner said he is in the third generation of a Routt County farming and ranching family.
“We need a strong voice for northwest Colorado. We don’t need more of the same voice,” he said.
He said he’s worried about northwest Colorado becoming “a sacrifice zone for national energy policy.”
“The industry has certainly had the ear of our representatives,” he said.
White said District 8 has about 27,000 Republican, 19,000 Democratic and 31,000 unaffiliated voters. State Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, said she thinks Western Slope voters tend to vote more based on a person and that person’s message, not his or her political party. But she said if Republicans have such an edge in District 8, it will be crucial for any Democratic candidate to appeal to unaffiliated voters.
But White likely would appeal to some of those voters, as someone who is a moderate enough member of his own party that he has upset some conservative Republicans with some of his votes on bills. White said he votes in a way that he believes best suits his district, which doesn’t always satisfy some Republicans.
Curry wonders whether White could face a primary challenge from a more conservative candidate. However, Mike May, the Republican minority leader in the House, spoke in support of White in a recent news release from White about his possible Senate run.
Said Curry, “That shows some support by their (Republican) caucus for a moderate, which is I think a better fit for the region and the state.”
Curry said she’s worked with White for three years and has had no bad experiences with him. She said she’s likely to remain neutral about the Senate race if he is the Republican candidate in the general election, unless she knows the Democratic candidate well enough to feel comfortable endorsing that person.
Meanwhile, White said he’s heard of a couple of Republicans and no Democrats who may be interested in running for his House seat, but he declined to name the Republicans because their interest is so preliminary.
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Grace Wesseling is an animal lover, a cheerleader of seven years and another soon-to-be graduate of Bridges High School, class of 2021.