Candidates for Colo. governor visit valley | VailDaily.com

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Candidates for Colo. governor visit valley

AVON – Bill Owens is Colorado’s governor until January of 2007. But the race to replace him is already starting to warm up.In the past couple of weeks, a pair of possible candidates have breezed through the area, one just to “listen,” the other to start mobilizing the party faithful to his cause. Here’s a brief look at both of the recent valley visitors.Rutt BridgesBridges is Georgia-born former oilman who made millions off the sale of a new kind of oil exploration software.Bridges founded the Bighorn Center for Public Policy in 1999. That group is best known for sponsoring a ballot initiative to create the state’s “no-call” list.Last year, Bridges was briefly a candidate for U.S. Senate. When former Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell announced he would not seek re-election last year, Bridges left the race after 10 days in favor of the current Senator, Ken Salazar.Bridges is not yet an official candidate for governor. He has, however, been traveling around the state to learn about problems facing residents in different areas.”The biggest thing I’ve heard up here is I-70,” Bridges said. “It’s not getting any better, and solutions so far don’t look very promising.”Bridges said he’s still listening to possible options to relieve highway congestion through the mountains. Water was the other quick-to-surface problem.”Issues about water just go on and on,” Bridges said. “On the Front Range, Douglas County is mining water, and meanwhile, neighborhood covenants demand Kentucky bluegrass lawns. Half the water in the metro area goes into lawns.”While listening to regional problems, Bridges said he’s going to focus on the state’s transportation system, education and building the state’s economy, which go hand in hand as far as he’s concerned.”If you want to attract business, good education is essential,” he said. Bridges described himself as a political moderate. “I have a history of working with Republicans and Democrats,” he said. “But there’s a reason I’m a Democrat. I’m for people trying to improve their situation, and I fear we’re losing some of that.”Although he’s never held elected office, Bridges said his business experience has prepared him to be the state’s chief executive.”Look at John Hickenlooper’s success in Denver,” he said.Hickenlooper, a businessman who’s now mayor of Denver, may end up being one of Bridges’ rivals, should both choose to run. Bob BeauprezRepublican Bob Beauprez, who represents the state’s Seventh Congressional District on the Front Range, sounds far less cautious than Bridges on whether or not he’s seeking the state’s top job.”I’m committed to doing what I have to do to be the next governor of Colorado,” he said.Part of that commitment is traveling the state, talking to small groups of party activists. “I want the effort to peak in November of 2006,” he said after talking to a small group of local Republicans in Avon recently.Beauprez is a rarity in Colorado politics these days: a state native. His family used to own a dairy farm near Lafayette in Boulder County. That farm was sold several years ago as surrounding development made the dairy operation more difficult every year.After selling the farm, Beauprez bought a small bank. Over the next several years, Heritage Bank has become a $400 million institution with a dozen branches.Beauprez is the former chairman of the state Republican Party. His first shot at elected office was in 2002, when he and Democrat Mike Feeley, a longtime state legislator, faced off in the state’s newly created seventh district.That race was the closest congressional election in the country that year. Beauprez prevailed by just 121 votes.Beauprez’s run for a second term last year was a little easier. He defeated former Jefferson County District Attorney Dave Thomas by about 29,000 votes.When Campbell announced his retirement from the senate last year, Beauprez’s name surfaced almost immediately as Republicans scrambled to find a candidate. In fact, Owens quickly endorsed Beauprez, who then quickly announced he would not seek Campbell’s seat.”The timing just wasn’t right,” he said.This time is different, he said. “It’s a tough call,” Beauprez said. “I’ve been well received in Washington and successful in Congress. It’s tough to walk away. But being a CEO, this is an opportunity to come home, to set an agenda and get things done.”Beauprez said if he was governor, the state would have something it hasn’t had before: someone with a deep list of contacts in Washington D.C.”I can have more influence in Washington as a governor than I can as a congressman,” he said.That can be crucial in bringing federal money to the state, Beauprez said.Some of that money is needed for transportation, which might be the biggest issue in the state, he said.Beauprez is especially eager to help regional airports grow. Getting more passengers into Eagle County and, say, Steamboat Springs, means getting people off I-70.”At some point we need to get our arms around a long-term vision for I-70,” he said. “And it can’t be raping and pillaging along the corridor, either.”Along with the mountain corridor, Beauprez told his small Avon audience that the next governor needs to pay close attention to “neglected” parts of the state beyond the Interstate 25 corridor.”I’ve been in the category of forgotten parts of the state,” he said. “There’s a lot of opportunity outside of Denver.”Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 613, or smiller@vaildaily.com.=====================The latest line:Here are current odds on a handful of possible gubernatorial candidates, courtesy of ColoradoPol.com. The odds are based on the opinions of political insiders, and don’t reflect the preferences of the ColoradoPol.com bloggers.John Hickenlooper (D): 3-1 and droppingBob Beauprez (R): 3-1 and droppingMark Holtzman (R): 4-1 and risingRutt Bridges (D): 6-1 and steadyAndrew Romanoff (D): 6-1 and risingScott McInnis (R): 7-1 and droppingBill Ritter (D): 9-1 and rising==========================Vail Daily, Vail Colorado