Lawmaker has to resell herself as write-in candidate
Kathleen Curry is hoping to do what no one has done before.
The Gunnison legislator wants to win re-election to her House District 61 seat without having her name on the ballot.
The three-term representative knows that’s never been done before, but says she isn’t afraid to try.
“This won’t be the typical ‘Mickey Mouse’ write-in,” Curry said. “This is for real, and I think it’s doable.”
Curry was forced into seeking her final term in the Colorado House as a write-in candidate last week when a Denver federal judge dismissed a case that would have placed her name on the November ballot as an unaffiliated candidate.
The lawmaker left the Democratic party last December, but too late to get on the fall ballot. Under Colorado law, unaffiliated candidates are barred from being members of an established political party for at least 17 months before an election to qualify for the ballot.
Curry had challenged that law, saying the same wasn’t true for party candidates, who can be members of those parties for a much as a year or as little as a few months to get on a ballot. (During this year’s legislative session, Curry sponsored a bill that changes that law, but it won’t go into effect until next year.)
Regardless, Curry said her task now is to educate voters about her situation.
“The first job I have is to explain to people why they would want to support me, and the second is to teach them how,” she said. “We’ll have our hands full. The process isn’t as bad as folks would say. People have to draw in the arrow or color in the bullet (on the ballot), depending on what that county does. Then they have to write in the name, otherwise it won’t count. My job is to make sure people understand that.”
Although the two other candidates in the race — Democrat Roger Wilson of Glenwood Springs and Republican Luke Korkowski of Crested Butte — are taking her race seriously, the leaders of the two state parties aren’t giving her great odds.
Colorado Democratic Party Chairwoman Pat Waak said Curry could end up quitting the race after she realizes just how hard it’s going to be.
“She may get out there and find out what we already know, that trying to mount a write-in campaign is a huge task, and an expensive one to undertake,” Waak said. “Historically, unless you’ve got a million dollars to spend, it’s pretty rough. So, it’s nice to say you’re going to run as a write-in, but I don’t know what’s going to happen (with Curry) once reality sets in.”
House District 61 is one of only five House districts in the state that has more unaffiliated voters than Democrat or Republican ones. The district, which includes Gunnison, Hinsdale, Pitkin and parts of Eagle and Garfield counties, has 15,739 unaffiliated voters, which is nearly 40 percent of the 39,488 registered voters there, according to the most recent voter rolls maintained by the Secretary of State’s Office. Democrats make up 33 percent (12,989 voters), and the Republicans have 26 percent (10,416). The remainder are third-party voters.
Republican Party Chairman Dick Wadhams said he expects Curry could pick up Democratic and unaffiliated voters in the district, but not many Republicans.
As a result, Wadhams is betting Curry’s decision to be in the race regardless of whether she’s on the ballot could be enough to turn it in the Republican’s favor. The three-way race has made the district one of a dozen House seats the GOP is targeting in its effort to win the majority in the Legislature.
“Under any circumstances, I think Luke Korkowski is a very strong candidate ... but things as they exist gives us an even better opportunity,” Wadhams said. “It’s hard to say how many people will proactively write her name in. I can’t imagine many Republicans will because they’re so fired up in this election.”
Wilson and Korkowski said they are thinking it’s a three-way race, even if not having the popular incumbent on the ballot will help their efforts.
“I’m going to be more of a credible candidate as a result of the fact that Kathleen is not on the ballot, and that may make a difference in voters’ eyes,” Wilson said. “I think I’m a credible candidate anyway, but that may make a difference to other people.”
Korkowski said he will try to persuade voters that he’s the best person for the job.
“Voters are looking to vote for someone, and they’re looking for competency and character,” Korkowski said. “I don’t have any interest in getting into any kind of character debate, so I’d rather address the second issue, and that’s where the candidates are on the issues and what’s their agenda?”