Donations fuel write-in bid to stay in office
The unaffiliated candidate for House District 61 has raised almost seven times more in campaign donations than the major party candidates in that race.
But as a write-in candidate, incumbent Rep. Kathleen Curry can’t say for sure whether it’ll be enough for her.
Curry left the Democratic Party last fall, saying her values no longer matched the party. Because she did that so late in the year, Curry, who is running for her fourth and final term in the Colorado House, could not get her name listed on the fall general election ballot.
As a result, she needs to raise much more money than the other two candidates in the race, Glenwood Springs Democrat Roger Wilson and Crested Butte Republican Luke Korkowski.
“I don’t think there’s ever enough,” Curry said. “There’s a lot of outreach I’d like to do, and depending on how much money I can raise, it’ll limit certain kinds of outreach.”
To date, Curry has raised about $21,000 compared to Korkowski’s $3,188 and Wilson’s $3,161.
“She’s coming into this race with a lot of mature momentum, while I’m a new person starting late,” Wilson said, explaining why he’s so far down.
“Wait until Sept. 7,” Korkowski added. “That’s when the next (campaign finance) filings are due. We’ll see where we’re at then.”
Despite the extra money and the name recognition that Curry has in the district, neither Korkowski nor Wilson is worried that she will cut into their support, much less run off with the race. After all, no one has ever mounted a successful write-in campaign for the state Legislature.
Still, Curry is confident it can be done.
“The way I would summarize the reaction of voters at this point is that I have a really good connection with them philosophically,” Curry said. “The challenge comes with letting them know that they have to put my last name on the ballot and fill in a box next to that. Substance-wise, we’re in really good shape, but process-wise there’s a certain number of folks that I need to get to so they understand how to vote for me.”
The Gunnison lawmaker said she has more support than Wilson or Korkowski realize and may surprise them come Nov. 2. Registered voters in a district are nearly evenly divided between Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters, and Curry says they will prefer her moderate views compared to her opponents. As proof, she points to an e-mail exchange she had with Hinsdale County Democratic Party Chairman Gregory Ochocki earlier this month that she posted on her website, kathleencurry.org.
Though Ochocki said he’s supporting Wilson, he called Curry “the best and most qualified candidate for HD61.”
In an interview, Ochocki said that’s true, or at least it was.
“That probably was more true when this was an election that didn’t involve a write-in,” he said. “It’s a very uphill thing to get citizens to remember to go in there and check that box and spell the name correctly enough. I don’t have any personal agenda against Ms. Curry. I think she’s a fine person ... but at this juncture, Roger Wilson is the best candidate.”
Regardless of the odds against Curry, Wilson and Korkowski are taking her bid seriously. As their party affiliations suggest, Wilson’s views are progressive, while Korkowski is conservative. Curry says she’s somewhere in the middle.
As a result, her opponents spend more time contrasting or comparing themselves against her politics rather than each other’s.
Curry opposed a measure during this year’s legislative session to convert aging Front Range coal-fired power plants to burn Western Slope natural gas because it could cost her district mining jobs. Rogers said he likely would have voted for that because he supports a cleaner-energy economy.
Curry opposed 10 bills during the session that suspended several sales-tax exemptions. Korkowski said he agrees with that stance, but added those measures are minor by comparison to what the state really needs to do: revamp the state’s entire tax policy.
Curry favors insurance reforms as a fix to the state’s health care woes. Wilson said he leans more toward universal health care, while Korkowski questions why people believe they have a right to health care in the first place.
“I have some ideas about saving water on the eastern slope. I have some ideas about building up a better tourist industry than we have now. I have some ideas about things that can be done to support small businesses,” Wilson said.
Korkowski said he is tired of hearing people say something can’t be done, particularly when it comes to the monumental task of revamping the state’s tax policies.
“We need to restructure our entire tax system,” he said. “Monkeying around with smaller provisions of the tax code is missing the point. We are actively contributing to our own dismantlement. We have to have a long, hard look at how we tax and how we’ve structured our state government.”
Curry said both major-party candidates are too extreme for House District 61, even if she does agree with some of their views.
“They’re different philosophically than I am,” the former Democrat said. “I’m getting a lot of Republican support, and the same thing with the unaffiliated people because they’ve never had a candidate. It just depends on what the voters are looking for. They’ll make that call in the end.”