Western Slope Legislative Races Starting to Gel

How are the Colorado legislative races shaping up on the Western Slope? A quick synopsis shows that most seats will be contested, which will help make 2008 an exciting election year over the Divide. A couple of open legislative seats and competitive registration numbers among Republican, Democratic and unaffiliated voters on the Western Slope will also add to the Election Day suspense.

PhotobucketIn HD-55, Grand Junction small-business owner Laura Bradford, a Republican, is trying to unseat Rep. Bernie Buescher, D-Grand Junction. Buescher is seeking a fourth term and has been considered a possible contender for Speaker of the House in 2009.

Rep. Christine Scanlan, D-Dillon, who was just appointed to fill the seat vacated by Rep. Dan Gibbs, will face challenger Muhammad Ali Hasan, a Republican businessman from Beaver Creek, in HD-56. Hasan had earlier considered a primary challenge to Rep. Al White in the Senate District 8 race.

Last month Gibbs was selected to replace Democrat Sen. Joan Fitz-Gerald, who resigned her SD-16 seat to run for Congress.

With Rep. Ray Rose, R-Delta, retiring, HD-58 will be an open race. Although he has not made a formal declaration, a former Third Congressional District candidate, Republican businessman Scott Tipton, (inserted comma)  is expected to challenge Montrose City Councilwoman Noelle Hagan, a Democrat. Although Republicans outnumber Democrats among registered voters, unaffiliated voters could make the HD-58 race a competitive contest.

Rep. Al White, R-Winter Park, is term-limited, creating an open seat for the HD-57 race in northwest Colorado. So far only Republican Randy L. Baumgardner from Hot Sulfur Springs has stepped forward, but Phillip Vaughan, a Republican from the Rifle area, is also considering a run. A Democratic contender is expected to announce in the near future.

Three seats — held by Rep. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, in HD-54; Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, in HD-61; and Rep. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, in HD-59 — may not be contested in the 2008 election because voter registration numbers strongly favor the incumbents.

The SD-8 race in northwest Colorado could be one of the more hotly contested legislative races in Colorado. Although Republicans have historically retained the seat, since 2000 the Democratic candidates have lost by less than 10 percent of the vote, basically a handful of votes in each precinct.

White specifically bought a property in Hayden to qualify to run, since his other homes in Winter Park and Denver are located out of the district. He hopes to replace Republican Jack Taylor, who is term-limited. White will face former City Councilman Ken Brenner, a Democrat from Steamboat Springs.

House and Senate races at a glance:

House District 54
Mesa County (western half) and Delta (western half)

Rep. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, vs. no announced candidate

House District 55
Mesa County (eastern half including most of City of Grand Junction)

Rep. Bernie Buescher, D-Grand Junction, vs. Laura Bradford (R)

House District 56
Eagle, Summit, Lake Counties

Rep. Christine Scanlan, D-Dillon, vs. Muhammad Ali Hasan (R)

House District 57 (Open Seat)
Grand, Routt, Jackson, Moffat, Garfield (western half), Rio Blanco

Randy L. Baumgardner (R) vs. no announced candidate

House District 58 (Open Seat)
Montrose, Ouray, Dolores, Montezuma, and Delta (eastern half)

Montrose City Councilwoman Noelle Hagan (D) vs. no announced candidate

House District 59
La Plata, Archuleta, eastern Montezuma

Rep. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, vs. no announced candidate

House District 61
Gunnison, Pitkin, Hinsdale, Roaring Fork area of Eagle and eastern Garfield

Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, vs. no announced candidate

Senate District 8 (Open Seat)
Eagle, Jackson, Routt, Moffat, Rio Blanco, most of Garfield

Rep. Al White, R-Hayden, vs. former Steamboat Springs City Councilman Ken Brenner (D)