Candidate wants to be ‘Western Slope warrior’
Vail, CO Colorado
AVON ” Muhammad Ali Hasan likes to visit at least one diner each time he visits towns on the Western Slope.
He wants to see what issues people are concerned about ” and to gauge their reaction when he introduces himself using his Muslim name.
“What I’ve noticed is people don’t have a negative reaction to ‘Muhammad,'” said Hasan, who calls himself an “interfaith person.” “They have questions about Islam. Some people are concerned.”
What Republican Muhammad Ali Hasan doesn’t tell those people is that he is running for the District 8 state senate seat, which includes Eagle County. Hasan recently filed his paperwork with the Secretary of State for the November, 2008 election.
He is still meeting with local party members before he makes his final decision on whether to run, he said.
Hasan’s work with the Eagle County School District on its Teacher Advancement Program motivated him to run, he said.
The program pays teachers according to how well they perform on formal evaluations and how well their students do on standardized tests. Hasan’s columns in the Vail Daily criticized the “arbitrary” evaluations tied to teachers’ pay.
Julie Lingle, parent of an elementary school student, was concerned about the Teacher Advancement Program because it was making teachers leave the district, she said.
She read one of Hasan’s columns and decided to attend a meeting he organized for parents and teachers. Hasan seemed to have no stake in the issue because he had no children and that impressed Lingle, she said.
“I just admire the energy and his willingness to be part of the community and take on issues,” she said.
School district officials invited Hasan to talk with them about the program, said Phil Onofrio, the district’s chief financial officer. Hasan discussed the program and listened, Onofrio said.
“That’s what citizens are supposed to do and that’s what public employees are supposed to do,” Onofrio said.
Now the district is looking at changing teachers’ pay structure, Hasan said.
Hasan said he aspires to be the “Western Slope warrior.” He called State Rep. Al White, a Republican from Hayden and a likely opponent for the senate seat, the “Western Slope exploiter.”
White is more devoted to interests on the Front Range than in District 8, Hasan said. White is proposing a bill that would give money from gas drilling on the Roan Plateau to front range colleges and universities, he said.
“Al White and his Denver bureaucrat buddies look at the Western Slope as if it’s a buffet table, where they pay a cheap price and they can have all you can eat,” Hasan said.
White said he and State Rep. John Penry’s (a Republican from Grand Junction) proposed bill would take half of a portion of gas drilling revenues. That would benefit Front Range colleges and Western Slope colleges such as Colorado Mountain College, Ft. Lewis College Mesa State and Western State College.
“Does he think that higher education only exists on the front range?” White said.
Hasan always has had an interest in business and politics, said his mother, Seeme Hasan.
“If it’s a subject he’s interested in, he’s going to go to the end of the world to study it,” she said.
Since then, Hasan has helped found Muslims for Bush, (now Muslims for America) and most recently Eagle County Young Republicans, he said.
His parents are friends and advisors to President George W. Bush, whom he counts among his influences for his commitment to American Muslims after Sept. 11, Hasan said.
In September, Hasan met Bush and asked him for advice on running for office.
“Now that I’m becoming interested and people are interviewing me, I’m so scared of saying the wrong thing, I’m so scared of doing something stupid,” Hasan told the president.
As long as Hasan had a sense of humor and enjoyed himself, his focus would stay intact, Bush said.
Win or lose, Hasan hopes he brings attention to his ideas, he said.
“The neat thing is even if you lose, you still change the debate,” he said.
Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 748-2931 or firstname.lastname@example.org.