Democratic Steamboat rancher challenging Republican state Sen. Jack Taylor |

Democratic Steamboat rancher challenging Republican state Sen. Jack Taylor

Cliff Thompson/Daily Staff Writer

He’s a rancher and also a Democrat in a region where 47 percent of the 121,000 residents are Republican and 43 percent are Democrats.”I know the numbers are slanted against me,” he said. “It’s an uphill battle, but I want to take on the challenge.”It’s his second shot at statewide office. It’s presumed Fetcher will be opposing incumbent Republican Jack Taylor, who has not yet announced his candidacy. In 2002, Fetcher lost his first election bid to state Rep. Al White, R-Winter Park, by 326 votes.Fetcher said he wants to restore some partisan equilibrium to the Republican-controlled Colorado Legislature. District 8 encompasses an economically diverse region that has ranchers, miners and tourism-dependent industries. It contains all of Eagle, Routt, Jackson, Moffat, Rio Blanco counties and most of Garfield County.”We get better government when there’s (partisan) balance,” he said. “For democracy to work, we need to have competition.”Fetcher has a connection to Eagle County. His middle daughter lives in Red Cliff and serves as the administrative assistant at the Gore Range Natural Science School.Tourism and environmentFetcher was president of the Steamboat Springs school board and is a founder of the Cattlemen’s Land Trust, which preserves ranches by creating conservation easements that prohibit development. He said he’s fiscally conservative but lists to the liberal side of the equation on social and educational issues.Fetcher’s Land Trust has saved 160,000 acres from development statewide, he said. But more important, the easements created have allowed 80 ranch families to remain on their land.”I think voters in Senate District 8 will elect someone who understands all the issues – tourism balanced against transportation needs and someone who understand education,” he said. “We need to take care of those that need it.”Fetcher said tourism promotion should be linked to environmental protection.”I feel to have quality tourism we have to have a quality environment,” he said. “The only way we can do that is to protect our natural resources. We can do that on a voluntary basis.”He opposes the Colorado Department of Transportation’s proposal to reduce traffic congestion on Interstate 70 by widening the road. Fetcher said he prefers pursuing a more creative solution, such as a mountain monorail.”We have to figure out how to have quality tourism,” he said. “How do we spread those tourist dollars out over economically depressed areas and develop an image of Colorado so that Steamboat Springs, Vail and Aspen aren’t the only places to go and spend dollars.”Funding questionsHe said he remains a staunch supporter of local control, something he said the Republican’s have failed to promote.”It’s ironic because the Republicans pride themselves on giving people local control yet we continue to face an erosion of that,” he said. “We need to get away from one-size fits all.”I’m concerned that what we’ve been doing at the state Capitol in Denver is too selfish,” he added. “It’s not about what I need, but what my children and grandkids need.”He said it was regrettable that during a time of state budget surplus several years ago, the Legislature enacted permanent tax cuts.”We all enjoyed the rebates when we had a surplus,” he said. “It’s hurting us now.”Fetcher said he would like to make adjustments to the Taxpayers Bill of rights by changing the state’s school-funding law. He said he wants to suspend a 1 percent annual increase while retaining annual adjustments for inflation. Currently those two provisions are working at cross-purposes, he said. One requires spending, the other limits it.The campaign season will begin for Fetcher in May when calving season ends. In his last campaign, he said he wasn’t visible enough because he was just too tied to his ranch. He said he intends to raise about $90,000 in campaign contributions and “knock on a lot of doors.””I need to work harder at selling myself and who I am and what I can do,” he said.He and his wife have three daughters to help them on their 1,300-acre ranch north of Steamboat Springs.Steamboat Pilot & Today reporter Tom Ross contributed to this story.

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