As Sen. Gail Schwartz seeks re-election in 2010 to her state house post representing a wide swath of Colorado, a local Republican and a former Delta County commissioner are seeking the nomination to challenge the Snowmass Village Democrat.
Bob Rankin, who lives in Aspen and Carbondale, and Wayne Wolf of Delta are vying for the chance to pick off the Senate District 5 seat for Republicans, who are hungry to reclaim power after four years of Democratic Party domination at the Capitol in Denver.
Rankin, 67, owns a home in Garfield County, which is not in the district, but also has had a unit in Aspen’s Hunter Creek Condominiums since 1995, where he said he’s been living full time since the summer. He is a retired aerospace and computer industry executive who lived in Colorado Springs and Washington, D.C. before moving to the Roaring Fork Valley 15 years ago. The 2010 Senate District 5 race is his first political campaign.
Wolf, 58, is a former Delta County commissioner who ran unsuccessfully against Rep. John Salazar in the 2008 race for the 3rd Congressional District seat representing the Western Slope.
Schwartz, 60, is a first-term incumbent who in 2006 carried 51 percent of the vote in the 11-county district to beat longtime representative Lewis Entz, who is from the San Luis Valley. The district encompasses the Elk Mountains, Buena Vista, Salida, Delta and the San Luis Valley.
The close nature of Schwartz’s 2006 victory might account for the Republican interest in the race, Wolf said.
“There’s an anticipation it will be close again,” he said.
The Republican challengers are likely to play up themes that will reappear in many state house races and the governor’s race. Both Rankin and Wolf said they would look to create a friendlier environment for extractive industries and were critical of the legislature’s move in the last session to raise vehicle registration fees to pay for road maintenance.
Schwartz will run on her record and the numerous bills she has sponsored in the last four years. These include a boost in funding to rural schools and legislation mapping renewable energy resources.
She stood by the transportation funding package, known as FASTER, which raised the average vehicle registration fee by $41 but also instituted stiff late penalties. The package will raise about $250 million to help repair Colorado’s aging and chronically underfunded road infrastructure. The legislature was facing an emergency with 125 bridges in the state identified as structurally deficient, Schwartz said.
Both Republican challengers said if the state needed more money, it should have proposed a new tax to be voted on by the people, which is required under the TABOR (Taxpayer Bill of Rights) state law. TABOR does not cover fees.
Rankin said he identifies with the “tea party” movements that have gathered steam since the election of President Barack Obama.
Wolf pledged to run a clean campaign and said he would denounce any 527s advocating on his behalf if he found them to be using inaccurate information to attack Schwartz.