In many ways, Colorado’s House District 19 personifies a modern Wild, Wild West. Encompassing the vast expanse of rural Eastern El Paso County, as well as the city of Fountain and Widefield/Security south and east of Colorado Springs, constituents range from farmers and ranchers to the working class.
This is territory where an issue as seemingly innocuous as zoning can erupt in range wars, with neighbor pitted against neighbor.For the past eight years, they have been represented by Republican Richard Decker, a Republican and retired teacher. Many politicians are spotlight seekers, but Decker’s never been one of them. Instead, he has quietly put in his time, sponsoring bills to outlaw the sale of substances used to make methamphetamine and increasing the penalties for gas station pump and dashers.
This year, Decker has endorsed Jimmie Brewer, a rancher and former one-term school board member to replace him. Brewer is similar in style; he hasn’t really articulated exactly what he wants to do if he gets elected to office. Instead, he issues broadbrush statements like this: “The strength of our nation lies with the individual and with the family, and that each person’s dignity, freedom, ability, and responsibility must be honored.”
Brewer’s opponent is a study in contrast. Marsha Looper, exploded onto Colorado’s political scene two years ago when she became a key organizer of efforts to stop Super Slab, the toll road that a private developer wants to build along the eastern plains from Fort Collins to Pueblo. Part of the deal involved allowing the developer to seize private property using eminent domain, and the legislature quickly nixed the idea when Looper and hundreds of angry activists flooded the state capitol in protest.
As a result, many of the more status quo-minded Republican activists in the area have come to calling her and her cohorts CAVEMEN (Citizens Against Virtually Everything). But Looper, a rancher and realtor, is non-plussed. “The Lord’s given me brains, and a backbone,” she says. “Quite candidly, I’m not afraid to take a stand.”
Whoever wins the primary today will face Democrat Ken Barela, the popular former mayor of Fountain, in the November general election.