Newcomer Wilson seeks to keep Dist. 61 seat for Dems
During a recent meet-and-greet tour around Colorado’s House District 61, Roger Wilson got to know some of the people and issues that are important to voters in the district.
It was a stepping-out of sorts for the Glenwood Springs resident, who decided on the spur of the moment last spring to seek the Democratic Party nomination to run for the House seat in the upcoming election.
“The main question I got was, ‘why haven’t we heard of you?'” Wilson said in a recent interview.
“As a lone eagle, I don’t participate daily with any groups or interact in the community a lot,” said Wilson, 63, who works out of his Missouri Heights home as chief technical officer for Starfall Education, an educational reading website for children focused on grades 1-3. He also works for Boulder-based Blue Mountain Arts, which specializes in greeting cards.
An exception was when he went door-to-door visiting his Missouri Heights neighbors a few years ago, gauging their interest in bringing broadband Internet service to the area.
Wilson decided to participate in the local political caucuses in April, and with the encouragement of Democratic Party leaders in the district, he sought the party’s nomination to run for the State Legislature. He won the support of 70 percent of the party’s delegates at the state assembly, and his foray into politics began.
High country tour
The sprawling House District 61 includes portions of Garfield and Eagle counties, including the towns of Silt, New Castle, Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt, plus all of Pitkin, Gunnison and Hinsdale counties.
During his tour of the district, Wilson said he heard people out on a range of issues, from local concerns about coal dust from trains passing through New Castle and property valuations, to the economy, water, education and energy development.
“Most of the issues center around creating a sustainable future for Colorado, and that extends to jobs, the environment and energy development,” he said.
“We need to look at both short- and long-term job growth,” Wilson said.
For instance, “I will work for ways to increase the use of sustainable energy projects locally, and on a grander scale on the plains, and I will find ways to support those industries with Colorado manufacturers,” he said.
“We as a region and a state should be exporting sustainable energy technology.”
Tourism promotion is another area he said he would focus on when it comes to job creation.
“And, I will also work aggressively on water quantity and quality issues for the benefit of the West Slope environment, agriculture and tourism.”
Split vote element
Wilson said there is “an element of concern” among voters over the possibility of a split vote between he and the incumbent District 61 representative, Kathleen Curry of Gunnison.
Curry changed her party affiliation late last year from Democrat to unaffiliated, and served the last legislative session as an independent. Because she changed affiliation too late in the game to have her name on the ballot for the Nov. 2 election, she is having to run for re-election as a write-in candidate.
Though Curry has the name recognition, experience and campaign funding that comes with being an incumbent, Wilson believes it’s “statistically impossible” for her to win.
“For those who feel a personal loyalty to the incumbent, I have to remind
them that it’s not a game which finishes on Nov. 2,” Wilson said. “You have to consider what kind of representation you want after Nov. 2.”
If Curry does win re-election, Wilson believes she will be ineffective as an independent outsider in a political process dominated by Democrats and Republicans.
If neither she nor he are elected, the result will be the election of Republican Luke Korkowski.
“I believe people who are still emotionally tied to Kathleen will be very disappointed if their loyalty results in a representative and policies in the state legislature that are quite opposite to the concerns and beliefs they hold,” Wilson said.
On the issues, Wilson also believes he’s the more progressive candidate when it comes to taking the lead on environmental protections than Curry.
He notes that he’s the only one of the three candidates who supported legislation to convert some of the state’s coal plants to natural gas.
“I will, however, investigate opportunities to implement cleaner coal-burning systems where we require coal plants,” he said.
When it comes to oversight of the natural gas industry, Wilson is an advocate for increased monitoring of water quality around frac’ing operations.
“I will work hard to make sure those monitoring and technological improvements are implemented,” he said.
He said he also supports of the proposed Hidden Gems federal wilderness designation.
And, “I will also take a more progressive view on the scope and implementation of health care, to ensure that we have a mobile workforce that’s not impeded by
the threat of people losing their health insurance if they change jobs,” Wilson said.
“And, I’ll be more creative in finding ways to position the Western Slope for
21st Century technology and lifestyle improvements, which I believe will lead
to a more sustainable future for our kids,” he said.
Billion dollar elephant
When it comes to addressing the projected $1 billion state budget shortfall that is likely to dominate the upcoming two years of legislative sessions, Wilson acknowledges that “painful cuts” will be necessary.
Everything from K-12 and higher education to human services, corrections and Medicare will be impacted, he said.
“We must revisit the entire structure of our budget, and in particular our capability to retain funds and buffer against future economic downturns,” Wilson said.
When it comes to education funding, he notes that Colorado consistently ranks 47th or 48th in the nation in per-pupil funding.
“Nevertheless, we’re forced to make even more cuts in K-12 education, and in higher education,” he said. “I intend to make an effort to focus funding and legislation on the components of education which are necessary for Colorado’s economic growth and our children’s future.”
He worries what a Republican controlled State Legislature would bring.
“I believe Draconian, across-the-board cuts are what you would see from a Republican administration, and that will not be in the best interests of the state’s economy,” Wilson said.
For more about Roger Wilson’s campaign visit http://www.rogerbenwilson.org.
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