Small-town mayor seeks senate seat
September 1, 2014
EAGLE COUNTY — Don Suppes' job includes fixing complicated systems. He hopes he can do the same in the Colorado Legislature.
Suppes is the Republican candidate for the Colorado Senate in District 5, a large, rural district that encompasses Eagle, Lake, Chaffee, Pitkin, Gunnison, Delta and Hinsdale County. He's a lifelong resident of Delta County and is currently the mayor of Orchard City, located between Delta and Cedaredge along State Highway 65.
Both his business and his stint as mayor convinced Suppes that many of the state's regulatory systems impose too much of a burden on those being regulated. Suppes said he and other Orchard City officials have run into regulatory mazes dealing with state officials. He faces many of the same mazes running his heating and cooling business.
"The average legitimate business owner doesn't mind following the rules but not when they change in the middle of the game," he said.
“I’ve learned how the government process works, and you begin to understand the hierarchy of local, state and federal governments. You also learn how to deal with people.”
The oil and gas industry has seen regulatory changes in six of the past seven years, Suppes said, adding that the mining industry sees regular changes, too. Most of those changes come from agencies, not the via the legislature, which Suppes views as unfair.
Suppes' focus on business is reflected in his campaign style. While he's still been knocking on doors since announcing his candidacy in April 2013, Suppes said his campaign-trail time is limited by his full-time job, his responsibilities as mayor of Orchard City and his family.
That means Suppes has been spending much of his campaign time with business and community groups around the district. And, he said, he's hearing many of the same worries from people all around the district.
Orchard City is a town of about 3,100 residents and has no sales tax or property tax, relying on revenue from a municipal water district for most of its operating capital. The town has a lean staff and operates with no debt.
Despite Orchard City's size and location, Suppes said his experience as mayor has been a valuable training ground for the state legislature.
"I've learned how the government process works, and you begin to understand the hierarchy of local, state and federal governments," he said. "You also learn how to deal with people."
The most important part of dealing with voters, he said, is learning how to say no.
Given that this race is likely to play in role in which party controls the state senate — Democrats today have a one-vote majority — it's almost certain that outside groups will dump a considerable amount of advertising money into the race. Some of that advertising can be pretty nasty.
Suppes and Donovan both say their own campaigns will focus on issues and legitimate differences between them. And, Suppes said, he'll publicly discourage egregious attacks by groups purporting to support his race.
"There's a difference between criticism and out-and-out lies," he said.
That said, Suppes and Donovan both are quick to point out the difference between them. Suppes is quick to claim that Western Slope Democrats often campaign one way, then vote another once they are working in Denver.
Suppes and Donovan both claim they'll represent the district over party interests if elected, particularly when it comes to water and how it's allocated in the future.
As you'd expect, Suppes claims he's the best person to protect the district's economic and environmental interests in Denver.
"We can have a much better regional voice," he said.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, email@example.com and @scottnmiller.