Democrat tries to make it a race
In a district dominated by Republicans and unaffiliated voters, Democrat Claudette Konola knows she has her hands full this election.
She knows that knocking on doors, shaking hands at community events and airing radio and television advertising just isn’t going to be enough to win the state Senate District 7 race against Rep. Steve King, R-Grand Junction.
Sure, she plans to continue using the traditional methods, but Konola has turned to using other means to help her campaign.
Twitter, Facebook, Internet blogs are all new tools candidates use to get their messages out, and Konola is trying to utilize them as best she can.
“The quote-unquote campaign professionals say, ‘Oh God, don’t do that,’ ” she said, particularly when it comes to posting comments on newspaper stories or other Internet posts. “But the new media is where people go. Maybe this community isn’t ready for that yet, but that’s the future of communications, so we’re using it to the extent we can.”
Konola, a retired banker, said that when she gets a chance to discuss issues either that way or through more traditional methods, she wins supporters.
Although she hasn’t spent the money to poll the district to see how she’s doing, her campaign contributions tell her she is making some headway. The Democrat has raised more than $21,000 since entering the race six months ago. Her opponent has picked up about $10,000 more, but he has been working at it much longer.
“Looking at his campaign-finance reports, over 50 percent of the people who donated to him in this last round are either Denver addresses or PACs,” Konola said of King. “Who’s he representing?”
About $600 of the donations Konola has raised so far have come from out of the area.
Still, that local money may not be nearly enough considering the other important numbers in the district: The nearly 34,000 registered Republicans and the more than 23,000 unaffiliated voters that Konola believes are mostly conservative don’t match up against the 16,300 registered Democrats in Mesa County, which is the Senate district.
“I understand all of the demographics, but I also can’t see somebody skating into the office of Senate just because they’re the anointed prince who wants to become king,” she said. “It’s hard work, but I’m doing the hard work.”
King said he knows he has the advantage but that he’s not taking it for granted, particularly in a political environment focused on throwing out so-called establishment candidates in favor of new faces.
“We are in a different time when you have the ability to move an electorate with a flood of commercials,” King said. “You would be taking things for granted and not doing yourself a service when you go solely on numbers. If you are resting on your laurels, if you’re not out working, if you’re not out doing the things that you’re supposed to do to win an election, you could be putting yourself in a bad position.”
Unlike other legislative races around the state, the two major parties aren’t putting much behind Konola or King. Instead, they are focusing on other Western Slope incumbents, such as unseating Sens. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, and Bruce Whitehead, D-Hesperus.
Both have raised thousands of dollars more to fight off the well-financed campaigns of their respective Republican opponents: Aspen resident Robert Rankin and Rep. Ellen Roberts of Durango.