Political developments are quickly gaining steam after lackluster start

What a difference a month makes. In that time, we went from a situation in which little was on the state or local political stage to provoke much comment, to a very interesting time indeed.

On the state level, Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Udall was in a precarious position for an incumbent, but many wondered if Republican front-runner, Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, would be able to pull off an upset.

Now, with the entrance of Congressman Cory Gardner, momentum has shifted, with many commentators placing Udall on the endangered species list — a list which he has put business and jobs on for quite some time.

Locally, we suddenly have some interesting races with what appears to be a bareknuckle fight for the job of county coroner and a new hat in the House District 55 race with the entrance of Grand Junction businessman Dan Thurlow.

Thurlow’s entrance is almost as surprising as the fight for the coroner’s job. The front-runner candidate, Mesa County Commissioner Steve Aquafresca, is a formidable opponent with a high degree of popularity and prior legislative experience.

What I can say about that race is that it’s crucial to have the right representative for our district, not only for the usual reasons, but for the legislative pushback needed to counter the state and federal government’s attempts to control water and development in western Colorado.

It’s one thing to pronounce the usual political rhetoric of creating jobs and so forth — although even in the best of situations we get precious few specifics. However, in the next couple of years western Colorado must fight attempts to curtail what little choices we have left for local control over growth.

Water is the key issue in the high desert, and while politicians say that all the time, many don’t understand the complicated and often antiquated system we use to preserve this critical resource.

Meanwhile, the state government is hoping to soon implement a statewide water plan. Anyone who has lived here very long knows statewide water plans almost always mean ways to divert water permanently from western Colorado to thirsty and growing communities on the Front Range.

This fight arises cyclically, when liberal forces and urban interests have some measure of control over the executive branch. Now, they have complete control over the executive and legislative sinews of the government. This is never good for us.

In the meantime, the federal government, using tools like the “Wild and Scenic Rivers Act,” wants to put a pretty name on a suspect concept that eventually could lead to the federal government controlling whatever unassigned water rights exist on portions of the Colorado River.

Removal of this scarce natural resource from local communities control eliminates those communities’ ability to attract business, so the eventual winner of this office must be intellectually prepared and experienced to fight these fights.

The coroner’s race is unusual. A job years ago we had trouble finding a physician to take is now one creating a tussle. I have some personal experience with former coroner Dr. Rob Kurtzman, now re-seeking the office, from my days in law enforcement. I found him to have a high level of expertise and availability, and he made a good witness.

He also was enthusiastic about this trade. Once, as the head of a local law enforcement association, I had him speak on the subject of gunshot wounds. He brought slides and showed them … over lunch.

He also allowed me to handcuff him and place him in the back of a patrol unit to demonstrate to the media how a handcuffed prisoner could use an undiscovered firearm to commit suicide. His demonstration helped answer questions that needed answers.

I don’t have experience with the present coroner, Dr. Dean Havlik but I wish him well. The fact that this underappreciated position is drawing two well-qualified candidates is nothing but positive.

Finally, since everyone in these races wants to be a Reagan Republican, it might do well to remember his 11th Commandment: to not speak ill of one another. The issues are too important.

Rick Wagner writes more about politics on his blog, The War on Wrong.


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“Liberal forces”? Conservative forces get thirsty, too.

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