Junction Democrat will challenge Scott to fill King’s spot in Senate
Rep. Ray Scott won’t be the only name on the ballot next year in his bid to become Mesa County’s newest state senator.
That’s because a Democrat, Grand Junction resident Claudette Konola, has entered the race to challenge the Republican to replace Sen. Steve King, a Republican who’s running for county sheriff.
Konola, who will make her announcement official in a Thursday press conference, created a campaign account with the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office on Monday, unofficially launching that bid for Senate District 7.
Konola, who lost a bid for that same seat against King in 2010, said she decided to get into the race, in part, because no other Democrat would.
“A lot of Democrats are afraid to run because they are afraid that if their name is associated with the Democratic Party they will be blackballed in this community for things like jobs,” she said. “I find that absolutely anti-Democratic and unconscionable, but that’s reality. Well, I’m retired. I’m not looking for a job unless it’s in the Colorado Senate.”
While Konola said she knows she faces an uphill battle in what is a largely conservative Senate district, she said things have changed a bit since then.
First, because of that previous bid, Konola has more name recognition now than she did three years ago, and the demographics in the county have changed when it comes to party loyalty.
In 2010, registered Republicans made up 51 percent of the vote, with Democrats trailing far behind with 22 percent.
While Democrats’ total percentage of all registered voters in the county has actually gone down since then, to 20 percent, Republicans’ hold on the electorate has fallen, too, to 45 percent.
That’s why she’ll be targeting the growing bloc of unaffiliated voters in the county, which has gone up 8 percentage points to more than 34 percent of the voters.
“If they are over 50 they are probably to the right of Attila the Hun and they’ve gotten disillusioned with the Republican Party,” she said of some of the unaffiliated voters. “But if they are under 30, maybe even under 40, they are young people who just don’t like labels and think that if they belong to a political party, that means they accept all of the platforms of that party, and they just don’t want to be labeled that way.”
As a result, she said it really will come down to who is the best person for the job, and Konola says that’s her.
While Konola is a life-long Democrat, she doesn’t always follow all of the party’s tenets, including the controversial gun bills that her party approved during this year’s legislative session.
She said he would not introduce or even co-sponsor any gun-control measure.
Konola said she supports people’s Second Amendment rights and favors gun ownership and conceal-and-carry permits.
“I am supportive of the sheriff’s lawsuit against the gun bills,” she said. “While there may be some people in this community who think I am anti-gun, they are absolutely wrong.”