Veteran lawmaker from Gunnison County wants to be a nonpartisan voice in the State Legislature
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — Summit County’s plurality of unaffiliated voters could make history this year if they band together to vote for Kathleen Curry, a Gunnison County resident considering a run for the Colorado House of Representatives as an independent candidate.
Curry, a veteran of the State Legislature, would compete for the seat in the newly formed House District 61. She would face incumbent Democrat Millie Hamner and either Deb Irvine or David Justice, currently contesting a Republican primary.
Curry is currently in the process of gathering the required 400 signatures and will be in Summit County this week to meet with local business and community leaders to test the waters for the bid.
HD 61 has drastically changed the political constellation for Summit County, which is now joined politically with Lake County, Pitkin County, as well as parts of rural Gunnison and Delta counties, forming a true West Slope district. All the final Colorado redistricting information is online at this Colorado government website, including maps and demographic information for the districts.
Curry represented much of the district in its old configuration in the Colorado House between 2oo4 and 2010 as a Democrat. In 2009, she had enough of partisan politics and centralized control and bolted from the party, serving out her term as an independent.
“The partisanship at the state house became unworkable. The party leadership at the time was telling people how to vote … I ran to represent my constituents,” she said.
She ran as a write-in candidate in 2010 and lost the race by only 300 votes (out of 30,000 votes cast). In its previous configuration, House District 61 encompassed Gunnison County, eastern Garfield County, Pitkin County, Hinsdale County and part of Eagle County.
Curry and her husband raise organic cattle in the Gunnison Valley and have two teenagers. She is also a part-time professor at Western State College. Her full bio online here.
Her renewed bid for the State Legislature was spurred in part by what she called the political dysfunction at the end of the most recent session, including an ugly display of partisanship surrounding a civil unions bill.
“When I saw that happen, I was heartbroken. wanted to run again to be a nonpartisan voice. If I had been there, things would have gone differently,” she said.
Curry has a strong background in natural resources issues and policies. including a broad understanding of agriculture, property rights, ranching, oil and gas, water rights, and economic development issues.
In her prior stint with the State Legislature, she served as Speaker pro tem in 2009, and as chair of the Agriculture, Livestock, and Natural Resources Committee for 5 years. During the 2010 session, Kathleen served on the Agriculture Committee and the Appropriations Committee.
If Curry makes the ballot as an Independent, it could add an interesting twist to a race in a district where the plurality of voters (38.22 percent) identify themselves as unaffiliated. Of the 45,000 registered voters in the district, 31.77 percent are registered as Democrats, 29.05 percent as Republicans.
If Curry can form a cohesive voting block among unaffiliated voters, she could find herself in a good position to win the seat. On the other hand, in a presidential election year, some voters may be more likely to vote a straight party ticket with the White House on the line.
Summit County has the lion’s share of the district’s population, at 35 percent, but the areas that Curry previously represented (Delta, Pitkin and part of Gunnison County) comprise 56 percent of the district’s population. The district voted strongly Democratic in the 2010 election — 53 percent in the Senate race and 57 percent in the Colorado governor’s race.
The race could be tight, according to Gary Lindstrom, who represented Summit County and some of the other areas in the new district in the State House from 2004 to 2007. Lindstrom, who also changed party affiliations during his political career, said he thinks Hamner will win a close race.
He described Curry as a moderate Democrat who effectively represente the interests of her West Slope ranching and agricultural constituency. Check out Curry’s website here: http://kathleencurry.org.
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