EAGLE COUNTY — Kerry Donovan decided two years ago to seek a seat in the Colorado Senate. We’ll know in November whether voters give her the job.
Donovan, a Democrat, is running for an open seat in the state’s Senate District 5. It’s a big district, encompassing all of Eagle, Lake, Pitkin, Chaffee, Delta, Gunnison and Hinsdale counties. Donovan said she’s given up tracking how many miles she’s put on her car while driving the district from one end to another.
It’s also a remarkably rural district. The biggest town in it is Delta, with fewer than 9,000 people. Remote Hinsdale County — where Colorado cannibal Alferd Packer became infamous — has tiny Lake City as its only town.
Economic drivers range from mining to farming, with tourism being the biggest business.
Despite that diversity, Donovan said she’s been surprised by what the district’s communities have in common.
“I’ve been hearing about water,” Donovan said. “People want to make sure the Front Range doesn’t look to us to make up for their shortages.”
Other district-wide concerns include economic development and maintaining the middle class, Donovan said. People also talk about the need to improve the education system in the state.
Donovan has spent a lot of time knocking on doors, talking to as many people as possible — “This is a really long job interview,” she said. While she has her own talking points, she’s also heard ideas from around the district that don’t come up in committee meetings.
Donovan, obviously, believes she’s the right person for the job. She said her four years on the Vail Town Council helped her prepare for the state legislature.
“On the council I was well-informed and prepared,” she said. “That’s how you earn respect.”
Beyond that, Vail handled several big issues during her time on council.
The town has a multi-million dollar budget and attracts national and international attention, she said. That’s going to help in Denver.
While this is a partisan race, Donovan said the job “is to be a strong voice” for the district. That could be difficult, given that the Front Range dominates the legislature.
“You need an open door and a big enough voice to be heard,” she said.
There promises to be a lot of noise in this campaign. While the district has only radio and newspapers as media outlet, there’s sure to be a lot of outside money flowing into the race on both sides. This is a district without an incumbent running, and Democrats have just a one-person majority in the 35-member state senate. That’s going to draw some attention, especially from “issue” groups of both parties who advertise without consulting with candidate campaigns.
Those ads can get personal and rough.
While other groups will do that they do, Donovan said her campaign isn’t going to take the low road.
“I’m going to keep this about issues,” she said.
That said, Donovan said there are significant differences with her opponent, Republican Don Suppes.
Those differences include women’s issues and the use of, and access to, public lands.
While there are differences throughout the district, Donovan said she’s up for the challenge.
“I want to go to Denver and work hard with a broad range of people,” she said. “I wear ski boots and cowboy boots, and I look for ways to solve problems.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org and @scottnmiller.
“On the council I was well-informed and prepared. That’s how you earn respect.”