Youngster takes on old hand for state House |

Youngster takes on old hand for state House

Silverthorne Democrat Dan Gibbs, who works for Rep. Mark Udall’s office, challenges Ken Chlouber VAIL – Dan Gibbs, who’s worked for U.S. Rep. Mark Udall for the past six years, announced Tuesday he’s running run for the state House in the November election.Gibbs, 30, lives in Silverthorne and works out of Udall’s Western Slope office in Minturn. As the lone Democrat in the race so far, Gibbs will face Leadville Republican Ken Chlouber, who’s also running unopposed.House District 56 includes Summit, Lake and most of Eagle County. Current Rep. Gary Lindstrom announced last month he would not seek reelection after his current freshman term.Gibbs will face a tough contender in the race. Chlouber, 67, has formerly held this House seat, and has also served as a state senator. Term limits caused him to step down, but he remains a well-known name in the district.Gibbs said that, while he considers Chlouber a friend and respects him, he thinks it’s time for a new voice to represent the district.”There’s a reason why there are term limits,” Gibbs said. “I think we need a fresh, new approach.”At 30, Gibbs would be one of the younger members of the House, but he said his age is a plus.

“I have great enthusiasm, energy and integrity to represent the district with all my heart,” he said. “My background and experience speaks for itself.”More important, Gibbs said, is the experience he’s gained working for Udall in Washington and Colorado. “I think there needs to be younger people in government, especially if they have the right skill set,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot, and believe I can win this district and represent everyone who lives here. I’m coming in with a fresh perspective, and I don’t have friends at the capitol who are lobbyists.”The issuesCalling himself a “Western Slope Democrat,” Gibbs said he’s a moderate who likes to hunt and fish and supports gun-owners’ rights. On immigration, he said he thinks the U.S. needs to get a better handle on who’s in the country, and also supports expanding the temporary work visa program.”At the federal level, I think the H2B visa program could be expanded,” he said. “I think people would follow the rules more if they know they can come back and have their job back the next year. That’s valuable for the ski industry as well as people in construction.”

Turning to transportation, Gibbs said he’s been involved in a lot of the discussion about Interstate 70 over the past several years and is encouraged by the formation of the coalition of High Country governments that’s working on traffic issues. “We shouldn’t be short-sighted,” he said. “We have to have a long-range view.”On another hot-button issue – proposed federal land sales – Gibbs said he’s opposed to the Bush Administration’s plan to sell off parcels of public land around the country.”It’s like having a family heirloom and selling it to pay a credit card bill,” he said. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone. We do have mechanisms in place to do land swaps, and I support those.”The majorityAcknowledging that the atmosphere at the state capitol is decidedly partisan, Gibbs said he’s got plenty of friends who are Republicans and believes he can work with the other party to get things done.But the notion of being in the majority is an appealing one, he said.

“I’ve been a congressional staffer for a long time in the minority,” he said, alluding to the past six years of Republican majority in the U.S. legislature. “So to be able to set the tone, to set the schedule, I think it would be amazing coming from a policy person like myself.”Gibbs said the decision to run for the House was not an easy one, but he was encouraged by support from Udall as well as other friends and colleagues both Democrat and Republican. He also said he believes this is a logical place for him to start – as opposed to a town council or county commission – since his experience is more at the policy and legislative level.”I know what it takes to put a bill through to the governor’s office,” he said. “I strongly believe I have the proper skill set for that. I have strong legislative experience that really qualifies me, and I also know how to work with local municipalities.”Representing House District 56, he said, would be a “dream.””This is the heart of Colorado,” he said. “I’m not coming in saying I know all the answers. I’m really looking forward to walking precincts, and hearing the concerns people have.”Alex Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14625, or Daily, Vail, Colorado

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